angry and was feeling desperate, but no one in his life at that time, either at the school or in his home, was aware of just how troubled he was or how low he felt.
Andrew Golden was 11 years old and in the sixth grade at Westside Middle School at the time of the shooting. He had lived in Bono all of his life, and his father had as well. In fact, many of Andrew’s teachers graduated from Westside with Andrew’s father, Dennis. Dennis and Andrew’s mother, Pat, worked as postmasters in a nearby town and were seen by people in the community as hard-working people with good jobs. Andrew was their only child together. Pat had two other children from a previous marriage and had had a tubal ligation before she married Dennis. But since Dennis did not have any children of his own, Pat had the operation reversed in order to have a child. Andrew was their miracle baby, and friends told the media he was “the center of their world.” Andrew was very close to his grandfather, Doug Golden, who was well known in the community since he worked for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission; it was not uncommon to see the two together around town.
The entire Golden family was known for their avid pursuit of hunting. Andrew was taught to hunt at a very young age; he was given a shotgun for Christmas the year he turned 6. Andrew practiced his shooting at the local range and won awards for his marksmanship. Hunting is a very common activity for boys at Westside, but the Golden family’s reputation was notable even for the area. Andrew posed for photographs as a toddler dressed in camouflage with a rifle. The Golden home was the office of the Jonesboro Practical Pistol Shooters Association, a local affiliate of a national gun organization, which is indicative of their enthusiasm for the sport.
Most adults described Andrew, just as they did Mitchell, as an outwardly normal or typical child. If anything he was immature and doted on, maybe even a bit spoiled; his family, some said, gave him anything he ever wanted. Because both his parents worked long hours, Andrew was often left home alone, but his parents called home to check up on him frequently. His half-siblings lived with him for a time but, according to people in the community, they were not treated well by Dennis and the Golden grandparents so they left and went to live with other relatives. There is no evidence that Andrew was ever abused in his home.
Some teachers and neighbors felt that the Goldens may have been overindulgent and failed to discipline Andrew. In his parents’ eyes, Andrew could do no wrong. A neighbor reported how Andrew would “curse like a sailor” at a very young age—perhaps 4 or 5 years old—and how his father and grandfather would laugh and encourage it, saying it was cute and would make a man of him. His mother would reportedly