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Those killed, wounded at Westside

by Jeannie Roberts | March 18, 2018 at 3:39 a.m.
framed sketch in the conference room of the local prosecutor’s office shows those who died in the Westside shootings: Natalie Brooks, 11, and Britthney Varner, 11 (top row, from left); and Paige Herring, 12; English teacher Shannon Wright, 32, and Stephanie Johnson, 12 (bottom row, from left).

Those who died March 24, 1998, at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro:

Shannon Wright, 32: Teaching English at West-side Middle School, where she had attended school, was a childhood dream for Wright. As a child, she would play school, writing out lesson plans for her little brother and making him do homework. Wright loved all of her students, even the troublemakers, and protecting them was her natural instinct. On that spring day in 1998, Wright stepped in front of sixth-grader Emma Pittman and was shot in her chest and abdomen. Wright was married and had a 2-year-old son.

Natalie Brooks, 11: Known as a sweet child who loved to play in the pool, Natalie carried a Bible to school every day. She was to be baptized on the Sunday after her death. Nearly 500 people crowded into the funeral home for her service.

Paige Herring, 12: Because of her love of music, Paige wanted to become an elementary-school music teacher when she grew up. She played basketball and was a trusted confidant for friends who sought her out for advice.

Stephanie Johnson, 12: A dark-haired girl whom classmates called friendly and quiet, Stephanie liked shopping for shoes and fishing. She was a caring child who often volunteered at the city’s animal shelter. She had an analytic mind and was always trying to figure things out.

Britthney Varner, 11: Always with an infectious smile and bubbly personality, Britthney loved to play tricks on her family and friends. She often told others that she loved them and was known for lifting their spirits.

Wounded in the attack were: Sara Thetford, 42; Amanda Barnes, 13; Ashlee Betts, 12; Jennifer Jacobs, 12; Brittney Lambie, 13; Candace Porter, 11; Christina Amer, 12; Jenna Brooks, 12; Tristan McGowan, 13; and Whitney Irving, 11.

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