Dan Johnson | Courtesy Legislative Research Commission

State Rep. Dan Johnson committed suicide Wednesday evening, just days after a news report uncovered an allegation that he molested a teenager, with leaders of both parties calling on him to resign from office.

WDRB first reported that Johnson had shot himself on a bridge in Mt. Washington, according to Bullitt County Sheriff Donnie Tinnell.

The report by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting on Monday included an accusation that he molested a 17-year-old girl in 2012, in addition to suggesting that he was involved in several schemes to commit arson and fraudulently claimed to have set up a morgue as an official chaplain at Ground Zero after 9/11.

In a press conference Tuesday at his Heart of Fire Church in south Louisville that he was a pastor for, Johnson denied all of the accusations against him in the report, claiming that unnamed out-of-state donors to NPR and his Democratic opponent were behind the allegation of sexual assault.

Just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Johnson posted the following message on Facebook account, again denying the accusations against him and criticizing so-called fake news, adding that “9-11-2001 NYC/WTC, PTSD 24/7 16 years is a sickness that will take my life, I cannot handle it any longer.”

 

Upon hearing the news of Johnson’s suicide, Gov. Matt Bevin — who had declined to call for the resignation of Johnson — tweeted: “Saddened to hear of tonight’s death of KY Representative Dan Johnson…My heart breaks for his family tonight…These are heavy days in Frankfort and in America…May God indeed shed His grace on us all…We sure need it…”

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne issued a statement: “It is with great sadness that we have received confirmed reports of the passing of Rep. Dan Johnson this evening. Please keep his family in your prayers during this incredibly difficult time.”

Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Mac Brown stated: “This is a tragic situation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Dan Johnson.”

Rep. Jeff Hoover — the Republican who was forced to step down from his role as House speaker last month amid sexual harassment allegations — tweeted that “over the past few weeks in some of the darkest days of my life, he reached out to me, encouraged me, and prayed for me. Prayers for his wife, children, grandchildren and all affected by this sad event.”

State Rep. Wesley Morgan of Richmond reacted to the news with anger and accusations, tweeting that Johnson was a “good man” and blaming the media and leaders of both parties for his death.

“Media, @KyDems and especially @KYGOP should be ashamed of itself,” tweeted Morgan. “Republicans, you turned your back on an ally and forced a good man who was trying to do right by the people of Kentucky to suicide. All because he wasn’t ever your pick. You wanted him gone. Think about that.”

The Kentucky Democratic Party, Republican Party of Kentucky, House Democratic Caucus and House Republican Caucus all called on Johnson to resign from office on Monday.

Louisville Public Media President Michael Skoler issued the following statement on Johnson’s suicide:

“All of us at Louisville Public Media are deeply sad to hear that State Representative Dan Johnson has died, apparently of suicide. We grieve for his family, friends, church community and constituents. 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.”

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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