Cornelius Smith (upper left) and Justin Johnson killed Memphis rapper Young Dolph, according to local enforcement officials, and now are in jail on charges of first-degree murder. A video capturing the killing as it went down was released several weeks ago.


The hunt for the ambush killers of Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., renowned as Memphis rapper Young Dolph, has yielded two men – Justin Johnson and Cornelius Smith, who now are in jail on charges of first-degree murder.

The apprehension of Johnson, 23, and Smith, 32, was announced on Tuesday.

And on Wednesday, authorities detailed that a Memphis man named Shondale Barnett had been detained as an accessory, specifically for aiding Johnson. Barnett’s extradition to Memphis still was pending at The New Tri-State Defender’s print deadline.

Thornton was gunned down on Nov. 17 at one of his favorite eateries, Makeda’s Homemade “Butter Cookies” at 2370 Airways Blvd.

Johnson, whose identity had been made known earlier, was arrested in Indiana at about 3 p.m. on Tuesday. A Facebook post that declared his innocence also indicated that Johnson planned to surrender on Monday (Jan. 10), but that did not happen.

Known as Memphis rapper “Straight Drop,” Johnson was picked up by U.S. Marshals.

In addition to a first-degree murder indictment, Smith faces a host of other charges. He had been arrested December 9 in DeSoto County on an auto theft charge, however, authorities did not release his name in connection to Young Dolph’s killing until Tuesday.

Smith’s auto theft and related charges involve a stolen white Mercedes-Benz, the same vehicle used by the gunmen in Young Dolph’s murder. The Benz was found abandoned on Nov. 20, three days after the fatal shooting.

After his indictment Tuesday, Smith was extradited to Shelby County, where he remains in custody. Authorities said a related attempted first-degree murder charge against Smith involved Young Dolph’s brother, who was with him when the gunmen opened fire.

Young Dolph, who grew up in Castalia, had reached international fame as a rapper and distributed his work via his own record label, Paper Route Empire (PRE).

Authorities indicated more details are forthcoming, soon.

Gunned down: Memphis rapper Young Dolph