On Wednesday, the body of controversial Republican state Rep. Dan Johnson was discovered near Mount Washington. The Kentucky legislator died from apparent suicide by a semi-automatic handgun. His death happened a day after Johnson denied sexual assault allegations.
Johnson’s body was discovered on a bridge in rural Louisville near his vehicle. Later that evening, Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings confirmed the representative died from a single gunshot wound in a probable suicide. Sheriff Donnie Tinnell spoke with CNN affiliate WDRB and said Johnson drove his car onto the bridge and parked. Afterwards, he exited his car and shot himself in front of the vehicle.
A History of Racism and Alleged Sexual Assault
The legislator first drew notoriety during his 2016 campaign. As pastor and self-proclaimed bishop, Johnson used his church to engage in political messaging. For example, outside of his Heart of Fire Church a sign once read, “Jesus and this church are not politically correct.”
Clearly, Johnson proved his point and garnered massive backlash. During his campaign, he posted racist imagery of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Facebook. One image depicted the couple as chimpanzees. In like manner, others showed a baby chimpanzee and said the picture was of an infant Obama.
Despite denouncement from both political parties, Johnson stayed in the race and won the seat.
A few days ago, the Kentucky representative generated controversy once again. In a report from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, allegations of sexual assault surfaced. The victim, Maranda Richmond, told a detailed story that took place at Heart of Fire in 2012. In it, she attended one of many alcohol-filled parties hosted by Johnson. The then 17-year-old described passing out and awakening to find Johnson kneeling over her. She said the pastor forcefully fondled her, stuck his tongue in her mouth, and penetrated her with his fingers.
Owing to the report, Republican leadership within Kentucky condemned Johnson. In near unison, leadership said they found Richmond’s allegation “compelling and deeply troubling.” Furthermore, they demanded Johnson’s resignation.
On Tuesday, Louisville detectives reopen the investigation into Richmond’s allegations.
A Disturbing End
On Wednesday, a Facebook post altered relatives to Johnson’s troubled thoughts. After contacting authorities, police pinged the lawmaker’s phone, but they arrived too late. After finding Johnson’s body in front of his truck, law enforcement recovered a 40 caliber semi-automatic pistol close by.
In Johnson’s final Facebook post, he ranted against his political enemies. Addressing allegations, he called NPR a “false GOD” and “fake news.” Wielding heavy religious terminology, he said “…Satan is the accuser, so blame the Devil himself.” Additionally, Johnson expressed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related suffering. He wrote:
“9-11-2001 NYC/WTC, PTSD 24/7 16 years is a sickness that will take my life, I cannot handle it any longer. IT Has Won This Life.”
NPR affiliate Louisville Public Media, operator of Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, issued a statement. Despite Johnson’s statements linking his pain to PTSD, the organization’s president, Michael Skoler, offered both condolences and a defense. He said:
“Our Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting released a report on Johnson this week. Our aim, as always, is to provide the public with fact-based, unbiased reporting and hold public officials accountable for their actions.
As part of our process, we reached out to Representative Johnson numerous times over the course of a seven-month investigation. He declined requests to talk about our findings.”
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