Representative Dan Johnson, a Republican Kentucky state lawmaker and pastor, known as "the Pope," was in trouble after a story came out revealing decades of lies and malfeasance, including an accused sexual assault. He committed suicide on Wednesday, just two days after it was published.
Long a controversial figure—during his 2016 election campaign, he compared President Obama and his wife to apes and chimpanzees on Facebook—Johnson was the subject of a lengthy and devastating investigative report, months in the making and released Monday by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
The report revealed that Johnson's claims to have been chaplain to the White House, help set up "safe zones" in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots, and set up a morgue near the collapsed World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9/11 were all lies. It mentioned the time he had burned his own car to collect insurance money, and the time he likely burned down his own church, which was drowning in debt. It talked about how his church engaged in unlicensed alcohol sales, including to minors. And, most devastatingly, it mentioned a police report filed by a then-17-year-old girl accusing Johnson of sexual abuse. She accused him of groping her, and penetrating her with his finger. The police opened an investigation, but closed it without charges.
The day after the report's release, Johnson was on the defensive. He accused political opponents of being behind the investigation.
"This allegation concerning this young girl absolutely has no merit," he said. "As a matter of fact, some of this I heard yesterday for the first time as I read the story."
On Wednesday night, Johnson posted a now-deleted message to his Facebook page:
The accusations from NPR are false GOD and only GOD knows the truth, nothing is the way they make it out to be. AMERICA will not survive this type of judge and jury fake news . Conservatives take a stand. I LOVE GOD and I LOVE MY WIFE, who is the best WIFE in the world,My Love Forever ! My Mom and Dad my FAMILY and all five of my kids and Nine grandchildren two in tummies and many more to come each of you or a total gift from GOD stay strong, REBECCA needs YOU . 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 . BUT HEAVEN IS MY HOME. “PLEASE LISTEN CLOSELY, Only Three things I ask of you to do,if you love me is (1)blame no person,Satan is the accuser, so blame the Devil himself. (2) Forgive and Love everyone especially yourself .(3)most importantly LOVE GOD. P.S. I LOVE MY FRIENDS YOU ARE FAMILY ! GOD LOVES ALL PEOPLE NO MATTER WHAT !
Johnson then drove to a bridge in Mt. Washington, and apparently shot himself. The coroner has ruled it a "probable suicide." Police, alerted by friends and family of Johnson concerned by the social media message, then found his body.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and other officials responded to the news of his death.
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...— Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) December 14, 2017
Just terrible news from Kentucky tonight on the passing of Rep. Dan Johnson. I cannot imagine his pain or the heartbreak his family is dealing with tonight. Kelley and I pray for his loved ones.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 14, 2017
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting shared its own statement and mentioned repeated attempts to try to talk to Johnson for the story, but were always rebuffed.
A statement from Michael Skoler, President of Louisville Public Media. pic.twitter.com/abgbOaaxUD— Kentucky CIR (@KentuckyCIR) December 14, 2017