Messages on Young Dolph murder surface on suspect's alleged Instagram account

Suspect Justin Johnson is alleged to be a Memphis rapper.

January 08, 2022, 5:36 PM

Messages that appear to reference the murder of rapper Young Dolph surfaced on Saturday afternoon on the Instagram account of a man police say is wanted in connection to the rappers’s killing.

Justin Johnson is wanted for allegedly shooting and killing rapper Young Dolph at a bakery in Memphis on Nov. 17, according to Memphis police.

It was reported by local media, including Memphis ABC affiliate WATN, that Johnson is a locally known rapper who goes by the stage name Straight Drop.

The Memphis Police Department issued a first-degree murder warrant for Johnson, 23, on Wednesday.

"Turning Myself In Monday @201 I'm Innocent," a message posted on an Instagram story on the known Instagram account for Straight Drop (@straightdroppp) said. "I'll Be Back Sooner Than You Can Blink."

It is unclear who posted the messages and if Johnson has access to the account.

PHOTO: Justin Johnson, 23, is pictured in a photo released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Jan. 5, 2022, with a notice that he is wanted and should be considered armed and dangerous.
Justin Johnson, 23, is pictured in a photo released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Jan. 5, 2022, with a notice that he is wanted and should be considered armed and dangerous.
TBI

It is also unclear what is meant by "201," but the address to the Shelby County, Tennessee, men's jail is at 201 Poplar Avenue in downtown Memphis.

Asked about the messages on Saturday afternoon, a spokesman for the Memphis Police Department declined to comment. A spokesman for the Shelby County Sheriff's Office directed ABC News' inquiry about this case to the U.S. Marshals Service, but a request for comment was not immediately returned.

Video of an interview with Shelby County Judge Christopher Craft by WATN was also posted on Straight Drop's Instagram stories and in a new post.

In the video, the judge -- who had presided over the trial -- discusses why Johnson was given a second chance after a 2017 shooting.

According to Shelby County court records reviewed by WATN, Johnson, who was 18 years old at the time, shot three people at the Billy Hardwick Bowling Alley in 2017 -- two of whom were injured.

Craft told WATN that Johnson had no record at the time, which is why he was given a second chance.

“The first time he used a gun, we gave him some slack because of him immediately cooperating and doing everything," Craft said.

PHOTO: Fans of Young Dolph set up a memorial outside of Makeda's Cookies bakery, Nov. 18, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Fans of Young Dolph set up a memorial outside of Makeda's Cookies bakery, Nov. 18, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Justin Ford/Getty Images, FILE

Johnson was sentenced to five years in prison but after a few months he was released on probation, Craft said. His probation was later revoked after Johnson faced a federal weapons charge for which he served additional time in prison.

"Next time post the REAL ... BS a-- blogs," a message posted from Straight Drop's account said, along with the video of Craft discussing Johnson's good behavior which led to him getting probation.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons told ABC News on Friday that Johnson was sentenced in the Western District of Tennessee and committed to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons on March 11, 2019 and was released on May 25, 2021 via Good Conduct Time release.

Johnson, who has a history of violence according to court records, is wanted by police in connection with a number of alleged charges, including first-degree murder, criminal attempted first-degree murder and property theft, the Memphis Police Department said on Wednesday.

Asked earlier this week by ABC News to verify that Straight Drop’s known Instagram account, which is unverified and has over 50,000 followers, belongs to Johnson, Memphis police declined to comment.

The account has gained thousands of followers since the messages surfaced on Saturday afternoon. According to Instagram data history, the Instagram account was previously registered under username "justintjohnson123."

PHOTO: Young Dolph's long time partner Mia Jaye and their children Tre Tre and Ari speak to the crowd gathered during a celebration of life tribute for late rapper at FedExForum on Dec. 16, 2021 in Memphis, Tenn.
Young Dolph's long time partner Mia Jaye and their children Tre Tre and Ari speak to the crowd gathered during a celebration of life tribute for late rapper at FedExForum on Dec. 16, 2021 in Memphis, Tenn.
Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal via USA Today Network

The phone number and email linked to the Instagram account are associated with Johnson, according to records reviewed by ABC News, and Straight Drop’s verified Spotify account mentions Justin Johnson in the writing credits of several songs.

Straight Drop released a song called “Stepped On,” featuring Big Homiie G, on his YouTube page on Nov. 22 -- five days after Dolph was killed. The rapper shared a clip on his known Instagram account of the song and linked to the YouTube video in his profile.

In the video, Straight Drop appears to be wearing a chain with the acronym “PRE,” which resembles those worn by Dolph and artists who are associated with Dolph’s label, “Paper Route Empire," which he founded in 2010.

This led to some confusion among fans regarding Straight Drop’s potential connection to the label. Whether he had a relationship with the late rapper or other PRE artists is unclear and ABC News has reached out to a representative of Dolph for comment.

PHOTO: A photo of late rapper Young Dolph is displayed on stage during a celebration of life tribute held at FedExForum on Dec. 16, 2021 in Memphis, Tenn.
A photo of late rapper Young Dolph is displayed on stage during a celebration of life tribute held at FedExForum on Dec. 16, 2021 in Memphis, Tenn.
Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal via USA Today Network

According to the U.S. Marshals Service, Johnson had an outstanding warrant related to a weapon offense out of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee for violation of federal supervised release, and both cases are being investigated by the U.S. Marshals Two Rivers Violent Fugitive Task Force.

Surveillance video released by police appears to show two suspects on the scene of the shooting, but no information has been released by MPD regarding the identity of a second potential suspect.

Law enforcement urged the public to share any information regarding Johnson’s whereabouts and said that the suspect is a fugitive who “has ties to organized criminal gangs,” and "should be considered armed & dangerous."

PHOTO: Rapper Young Dolph performs on stage during the Parking Lot Concert series at Gateway Center Arena on Aug. 23, 2020 in College Park, Georgia.
Rapper Young Dolph performs on stage during the Parking Lot Concert series at Gateway Center Arena on Aug. 23, 2020 in College Park, Georgia.
Paras Griffin/Getty Images, FILE

“This is just the beginning,” Dolph’s longtime partner Mia Jaye said in a statement posted to Instagram, following law enforcement's announcement of the alleged suspect. “We are still prayerful that all attacks, plots and plans that were made against Adolph’s life are revealed and justice is diligently served.”

Young Dolph, whose real name was Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., was shot and killed in Memphis on Nov. 17 while visiting Makeda's Homemade Butter Cookies, a bakery in South Memphis the rapper was known to frequent. He was 36 and shared two young children with Jaye, Tre and Ari, both of whom shared an emotional tribute to their father at a memorial in Memphis last month.

Young Dolph’s aunt Rita Myers told Rolling Stone in an interview on Wednesday that the family is reeling from her nephew's killing.

“There’s not any closure for us with this news, because [Johnson] is not in custody, and we still don’t have all the facts,” she said. “We still feel the same. This news just made me feel worse. I thought it would make me feel better, but it didn’t. All I know is, anyone who could walk up and take the life of another person for no reason is someone with hate in their heart, a person who has no regard for life, a person who cares about nothing.”

A spokesman for MPD told ABC News that as of Friday morning there are no updates to share regarding this case.

Johnson is 5-foot-8, 190 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes, police said. A combined reward of up to $15,000 is being offered by MPD, the U.S. Marshals Service and Crime Stoppers for information leading to his arrest.

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