An application for a concealed handgun permit filed by one of the shooters in 1998's Westside Middle School Massacre in Jonesboro has been denied by the Arkansas State Police, citing the objections of the Sharp County sheriff and at least one answer on the application that appears to be false.
The application was filed on Oct. 7 by Drew Douglas Grant, who lists an address in Evening Shade. State Police spokesman Bill Sadler confirmed that Drew Douglas Grant and Andrew Golden are one and the same. On March 24, 1998, Golden and his accomplice, Mitchell Johnson, pulled the fire alarm at Westside Middle School near Jonesboro, then opened fire with high-powered rifles when teachers and students emerged from the building. Four girls and a teacher were killed. At the time of the shooting, Golden was 11 years old and Johnson was 13. Charged as juveniles in state court and later transferred to federal custody for the crime of bringing a firearm to school, each was released from jail on his 21st birthday with a clean record.
Until now, Golden's new identity as Drew Douglas Grant has officially been a secret, though anonymous Internet postings had linked him to that name. On Nov. 11, Craighead Circuit Judge David Burnett issued a gag order prohibiting attorneys in a civil case filed against Golden by the families of the Westside victims from revealing Golden's new name, his place of employment, where he lives or where he attends school. Burnett also ordered that Golden's deposition in the lawsuit not be released to the public until after the lawsuit is settled.
Since being released from jail, Golden has faded into anonymity, legally changing his name and apparently avoiding any further run-ins with the law. Johnson, meanwhile, has been arrested, convicted and sentenced to four years in federal prison on the rarely-used charge of possessing a gun while being a user of or addicted to a controlled substance. In October, Johnson was sentenced to an additional 12 years on state theft charges for using a customer's credit card stolen from the convenience store where he worked.
In the application filed with the State Police, Grant presents paperwork to show that he has completed seven hours of firearms training required to qualify him for a permit to carry a semi-automatic handgun. In a section asking Grant to list all residences where he has lived in the past two years, Grant says that he lived in Ravenden from April 2002 to May 2006, then in Evening Shade from May 2006 to June 2008. In fact, Golden was held on state charges at the Youth Services Center in Alexander until his 18th birthday in 2004, then transferred to an undisclosed federal prison. He was released on May 25, 2007 — his 21st birthday. The only federal prison in Arkansas is in Forrest City.
In the letter denying Grant's request for a permit obtained by the Arkansas Times via a Freedom of Information Act request, Arkansas State Police Lt. Cora Gentry informs Grant that a letter of objection to the permit has been received from Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver. Gentry cites the Arkansas law concerning the issuance of concealed-carry licenses, which states in part that, “The director may deny a license if the sheriff or chief of police, if applicable, of the applicant's place of residence submits an affidavit that the applicant has been or is reasonably likely to be a danger to himself or herself or others or to the community at large as the result of the applicant's mental or psychological state, as demonstrated by past patterns of behavior, or participation in an incident involving unlawful violence or threats of unlawful violence.”
“It is the Department's position,” Gentry writes, “based on a reading of the Arkansas Juvenile Code … that you are prohibited from possessing or owning a firearm. Therefore, it would be against federal or state law to issue you the license.”
As received from the Arkansas State Police, a large segment of the letter to Grant is completely blacked out. Sadler said the passage was redacted because it deals with the details of juvenile proceedings, which are not subject to release under the Arkansas FOI law.
Later in the letter, Gentry notes that on his application, Grant swore under oath that from May 2006 to June 2008, he lived in Evening Shade. However, Gentry writes, a check of Grant's driver's license history found that he transferred a Missouri driver's license to an Arkansas license on May 15, 2008. On the Missouri license, Grant had listed an address in Cape Girardeau, Mo., as his home. Gentry also cites an accident report filed following a May 4 wreck in which Grant crashed a 2007 Suzuki GSX-R600 motorcycle while trying to negotiate a curve near Drasco. The motorcycle is listed as being owned by Patricia Golden, the mother of Andrew Golden. Grant was cited for failure to maintain control and having no motorcycle endorsement on his driver's license.
“That accident report shows an address of 910 Heber Springs Road, Batesville, Arkansas,” Gentry wrote. “Both of these incidents are within the time frame that you stated that you resided in Evening Shade, and they are not listed on your application.” Gentry again refers to the Arkansas Code, citing, “a conspicuous warning that the application is executed under oath, and that a knowingly false answer to any question or the knowing submission of any false document by the applicant … precludes any future license being issued to the applicant.” At the end of the letter, Gentry informs Grant that he has 10 days to request in writing an administrative hearing for review of the denial.
Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver wouldn't confirm or deny that Grant is Golden, but he said that he filed the letter of objection after being informed of the permit application by the State Police. Weaver said that he filed the objection because it he thought it was what was best for the community.
Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said the discovery that Drew Grant and Andrew Golden were one and the same was made during the lengthy background check performed for each concealed-carry permit. “There was a set of fingerprints that he submitted from his concealed handgun license training,” Sadler said. “There were fingerprints [belonging to Golden] that were already in the possession of the Arkansas State Police that date back to 1998.”
The denial letter's assertion that Grant is prohibited from possessing a firearm (the reason is not revealed in the public portion of the document) brings up an interesting question. Could Grant potentially be arrested for owning or carrying a gun? Sadler said that depends on the contents of Grant's Arkansas Crime Information Center file. ACIC law prohibits Sadler from discussing the contents of anyone's file for non-law-enforcement purposes, but he was willing to speak hypothetically. “If there is a traffic stop and an ACIC check,” Sadler said, “and all this is hypothetical now, but certainly if he were stopped and if there was a check of his records and there was notation that he was prohibited from having a firearm and [a gun] was in fact found, he would be charged with carrying a prohibited weapon.”
Regarding the apparent falsehoods on Grant's sworn application — including Grant's statement that he lived in Ravenden and Evening Shade during a time when he was actually in custody — Sadler said that the investigation into the application is ongoing. “There is a provision in the statute to charge an applicant with providing false information, if the administrator of the program so deems it necessary,” Sadler said.