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Parents of shooting suspect among those asking 'why?'

Johnson and Golden
Mitchell Johnson (L) and Andrew Golden in undated yearbook photos   
March 27, 1998
Web posted at: 3:01 p.m. EST (2001 GMT)

Friday's developments:

JONESBORO, Arkansas (CNN) -- Two of the girls killed in a schoolyard ambush were being buried Friday as the parents of one of the suspects offered their "deepest sympathy" but said they had no explanation for the shooting.

Also on Friday, investigators hoped to complete interviews with shooting victims who survived Tuesday's attack, blamed on two middle school classmates.

Two students -- Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew "Drew" Golden, 11 -- are being held on five counts each of murder and 10 counts of battery. Of the 10 people wounded, five, including a teacher, remained hospitalized Friday.

Police say the two suspects, dressed in camouflage and armed with rifles and handguns, opened fire on Westside Middle School classmates and staff members who had left the school after the boys triggered a fire alarm.

Highlights from Friday briefings

Sounds from Friday's interviews

The situation is "stressful" when attorney Bill Howard visits Mitchell Johnson
icon 266K/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Sadler visits the jail area Friday
icon 342K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police, briefed reporters every few hours on Friday outside the Craighead County Detention Center in Jonesboro where Johnson and Golden are being held. He said:

  • No single individual appeared to be targeted by the boys. He said the chaos that erupted after the gunfire began "would make it difficult, at best, for some person to be targeted in that chaos."icon (376K/34 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
    Some students have reported that Johnson threatened to seek revenge against a girl for breaking up with him. When questioned further by a reporter, Sadler left open the possibility that the shooters may have "gone there with the intention of looking for one single person."icon (305K/27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
  • Both of the young suspects "seem to be as well as you can expect under the circumstances."
  • "There's very little emotion on their faces"
The rear door of the stolen van that was allegedly used in the crime was sent to the state police crime lab for testing   
  • State police investigators had conducted 88 interviews in the case and hoped to wrap up the questioning on Friday, once they were able to talk to shooting victims still hospitalized or recently released from the hospital after being treated for their wounds.
  • A "significant amount" of physical evidence, including fingerprints and firearms, had been turned over to the state police crime lab.

Boys' lawyers meet the media

Interview with Bill Howard, attorney for Mitchell Johnson
icon VXtreme streaming video (6:30)

News conference with Val Price, attorney for Andrew Golden
icon VXtreme streaming video (12:00)

Prosecutors have prepared a "fact list" on the case but Golden's public defender attorney, Val Price, objected to the information being made public. "It would be detrimental to my client for additional details of this event to be released at this time," Price told reporters.

Sadler, however, said the "fact sheet" contained little additional new information. A judge's decision was possible later in the day on whether the "fact sheet" will be released.

Price also said Patricia and Dennis Golden -- his client's parents -- were having a "hard time" understanding what had happened and "expressed their deepest sympathy to all the (victims') families." icon 345K/31 sec. AIFF or WAV sound


  • Interactive Map: Recent shootings at U.S. schools

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  • "It is very difficult for them to grasp and to talk about what is going on," the attorney said.

    "There are many questions and at this point Mr. and Mrs. Golden simply do not have all the answers. They would like to explain the situation and make it clear for everyone and take away the pain for those who are suffering, but they can not. They, too, can not understand and they, too, are asking why Andrew, their 11-year-old baby, is allegedly involved."

    Separately on Friday, Mitchell's public defender said his client has been quiet and "very upset," but the attorney, Bill Howard, did not elaborate. "I'm not sure if all of this has sunk in," Howard said in a live interview on CNN's legal issues program, "Burden of Proof."


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