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Third Suspect Charged in Young Dolph’s Murder

Shundale Barnett, 27, has been charged with being an after-the-fact accessory to first-degree murder, U.S. Marshals said Wednesday

Young Dolph performs in Atlanta on Aug. 23, 2020.

Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP

A third man is now facing charges in connection with the shocking slaying of rapper Young Dolph at a Makeda’s Homemade Butter Cookies bakery in Memphis eight weeks ago, officials revealed Wednesday.

Shundale Barnett, 27, has been charged with being an after-the-fact accessory to the deadly daylight ambush that ended the revered rapper’s life on Nov. 17, U.S. Marshal Tyreece Miller said at a press conference.

According to Miller, Barnett was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over at a truck stop just outside Terre Haute, Indiana, Tuesday afternoon amid a national manhunt for Justin Johnson, 23, the Memphis man identified last week as the subject of a first-degree murder warrant in the Young Dolph case. Johnson was behind the wheel and taken into custody without a fight, Miller said.

“Shundale Barnett is a person who, we believe, was providing assistance to Justin since we’ve been looking for him,” Miller said, adding that Barnett was being held on a state warrant in Indiana and due to face an extradition effort by prosecutors in Shelby County, Tennessee.

Young Dolph, 36, was gunned down at the bakery near Memphis International Airport after doing charity work in his beloved hometown that included giving away Thanksgiving turkeys at a church.

Johnson, 23, was arrested Tuesday by U.S. Marshals after an offer of a $15,000 reward generated more than 500 tips in the case, including one on Tuesday that said Johnson was traveling on Highway 42 in Indiana, Miller said.

News of Johnson’s capture surfaced just as prosecutors in Shelby County publicly identified Cornelius Smith, 32, as the second alleged gunman sought in the murder case.

From Left: Cornelius Smith, Justin Johnson and Shundale Barnett - Credit: Shelby County Sheriff's Office; Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; Clay County Sheriff's Office

From Left: Cornelius Smith, Justin Johnson and Shundale Barnett (Photo: Shelby County Sheriff’s Office; Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; Clay County Sheriff’s Office)

Johnson and Smith were indicted Tuesday on charges they murdered Young Dolph with premeditation and also attempted to kill the rapper’s brother, Marcus Thornton, during the bakery attack, according to a copy of the indictment obtained by Fox13 Memphis.

The grand jury further indicted both suspects on counts of being convicted felons in possession of firearms, use of firearms in a dangerous felony and theft of the 2014 white Mercedes-Benz used as the getaway car.

Smith was first arrested Dec. 9 in Southaven, Tennessee, on an auto-theft warrant involving the Mercedes-Benz, which prosecutors say was stolen Nov. 10 during a carjacking at a gas station. A tipster allegedly helped police find the vehicle stashed behind a residence in Orange Mound on Nov. 20, officials said. Previously in custody at the DeSoto County Jail in Hernando, Smith was moved Tuesday to the Shelby County Jail to face the indictment.

Officials confirmed Tuesday that it was Johnson who announced on social media over the weekend that he planned to turn himself in to Memphis Police on Monday. The aspiring rapper, known as Straight Drop, never appeared Monday and instead was on the run.

At the press conference Wednesday, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy P. Weirich described Johnson as having an extensive criminal history.

In July 2015, while he was only 17 years old, Johnson was charged with the armed robbery and rape of a woman at an Econo Lodge, she said. He was found to be “delinquent” in the case and held until his 19th birthday, after which he was out of custody until his subsequent arrest in February 2017 for shooting three people at the Billy Hardwick All Star Lanes bowling alley in Memphis a month earlier, she said.

In May 2017, Johnson pleaded guilty in the bowling alley case and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released after serving nine months and later violated his probation when he was found with a handgun in May 2018, Weirich said. He went to federal prison over the handgun and was released in May 2021

Young Dolph’s aunt, Rita Myers, told Rolling Stone Jan. 5 that the family was still reeling from her nephew’s senseless slaying. “Our family has suffered a tremendous loss, because he was the glue that held our family together,” Myers said of her nephew. “I’m still crying, day and night.”

From Rolling Stone US