After two months of searching, authorities have captured Justin Johnson and Cornelius Smith, the two men suspected of killing Memphis rapper Young Dolph.
Caught on security camera footage from back in November, the suspects were seen hopping out of a Mercedes Benz and running into Makeda’s Homemade Butter Cookies in Memphis, Tenn., where they shot and killed the 36-year-old rapper.
Justin Johnson, 23, and the second suspect, Cornelius Smith, 32, were tracked down by U.S. Marshals Officers across multiple state lines to Indiana, north of Tennessee, and apprehended late Tuesday night.
According to Consequence of Sound, Johnson had an outstanding warrant for a weapons violation, and had previously served five years in prison for his involvement in a triple shooting. He now faces charges of first-degree murder and theft of property up to $60,000.
Likewise, Cornelius Smith also faces first-degree murder and theft of property up to $60,000, as well as attempted first-degree murder of Young Dolph’s brother, illegal possession of a firearm, and employment of a firearm with intent to commit a felony.
Before they were captured, there was a combined reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to their arrest, according to ABC News. U.S. Marshals reported that Johnson had alleged ties to “organized criminal gangs,” though information was not released about what happened to lead to his capture. Both suspects are both being held without bond.
Authorities told ABC News that they were able to trace the suspect’s Mercedes Benz seen in the security camera footage of the shooting to one reported missing in a Nov. 10 carjacking, just seven days before Young Dolph’s death.
The two suspects stole the vehicle at a gas station in the 2800 block of Kirby Road in Memphis, according to police, later dropping it off on Nov. 20 behind a house in the 1100 block of Bradley in Orange Mound. Cornelius Smith was later arrested on Dec. 9, a month before Johnson, in Southaven, Miss.
A potential motive for the shooting remains unclear, though police are expected to give a press conference about the suspects’ arrests later on Wednesday, Jan. 12. U.S. Marshal Tyreece Miller, Memphis Police Chief C. J. Davis and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich will speak from Memphis at 1 p.m. CST (2 p.m. EST).
Young Dolph, whose real name was Adolph Robert Thorton Jr., was the only person killed in the tragic shooting on Nov. 17, 2021.
Suspects were questioned the day after the shooting when shots ran out even during a memorial held at the bakery for the late rapper. One man was left wounded and three suspects were held in questioning.
The incident was not the first attack on Young Dolph’s life. He had been involved in two prior shootings dating back to 2017, where he subsequently bought bulletproof vehicles to further protect himself. The first incident placed him in the hospital after he was shot in the arm, while the second in Charlotte, NC, allegedly put over 100 bullets into his SUV.
Fellow rapper Blac Youngsta was arrested under suspicion for the shootings in 2017, but he was later released, and the charges were dropped.
Many in Memphis, such as community organizers and activists, used his tragic passing to highlight an increase in violence in the city over the past year. According to CBS News, there were over 300 homicides reported in Memphis last year.
Young Dolph was remembered at a special ceremony at the Memphis Grizzlies basketball arena this past December, and a section of the street he grew up on in Memphis was renamed in his memory.
Earlier this week, his label Paper Route Empire announced the release of a compilation mixtape to be released in his honor on Jan. 21 titled Long Live Dolph.