Suspects arrested in fatal shooting of Memphis rapper Young Dolph

Young Dolph standing on stage wearing a red hat and holding a microphone.
Young Dolph was fatally gunned down in his hometown of Memphis on Nov. 17, 2021.
(Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP)

Two suspects accused of killing Memphis rapper Young Dolph have been arrested, police announced Tuesday afternoon.

U.S. Marshals said 23-year-old Justin Johnson was arrested in Indiana around 3 p.m. Tuesday. Johnson was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and property theft, and was taken into custody after breaking a pledge to turn himself in on Monday.

Cornelius Smith, 32, was indicted on first-degree murder, convicted felon in possession of a firearm and other charges, the Shelby County District Attorney announced Tuesday. He was arrested last month on an auto theft warrant linked to a white Mercedes Benz that prosecutors said was used in Young Dolph’s killing.


For years, Sheriff Drumman and his cherry-red pickup truck, custom-fitted with his prize drum kit, were a fixture around L.A. Car thieves changed everything.

Jan. 11, 2022

Young Dolph, born Adolph Thornton Jr., was fatally shot at age 36 in his hometown of Memphis on Nov 17, 2021. The artist had been visiting Makeda’s Cookies to pick up an order for his mother, when the white Mercedes pulled up to the restaurant and the shooting took place.

Young Dolph was a fixture of Memphis hip-hop, with songs like “Get Paid” and “Major” soundtracking a generation of hustlers. His 2020 album “Rich Slave,” featuring appearances from Megan Thee Stallion and frequent collaborator Key Glock, peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200.

For years, Dolph shunned major labels to remain independent, founding Paper Route Empire in 2010 and famously turning down a reported $22 million major-label deal in 2018.

“It just didn’t make sense for me to do it,” he told Genius. “I’m in a different position. Even the people that tried to give me advice on it, I took their advice and I listened to what they say, but it’s like at the same time, on this side of my brain I gotta realize nobody has ever been in my shoes, so they don’t know the best move to make.

A tribute album titled “Paper Route EMPIRE Presents: Long Live Dolph,” featuring the Key Glock, Snupe Bandz and more of the label’s artists, is set to be released on Jan 21.