In what is being investigated as a case of suicide, a Republican lawmaker has been found dead in a secluded area on Wednesday after he denied allegations of sexually harassing a teenage girl.
According to Bullitt County police spokesperson, Dan Johnson, who is a member of Kentucky House of Representatives, was found dead with a single shot wound on Greenwell Ford Road in Mount Washington, Kentucky.
The police suspect that Johnson stopped his car at the end of a bridge in a secluded area and shot himself. An autopsy is pending for Thursday morning.
“I would say it is probably suicide,” said the police spokesperson.
Johnson was elected as a member of Kentucky House of Representatives in 2016 and was part of the emphatic victories registered by Republicans in Kentucky after a respite of almost a century.[irp]
Johnson was smeared with controversies even before the sexual assault allegation. During his run-up to the elections in 2016, he faced protest from within and outside his party for Facebook posts comparing the Obamas to monkeys. At one stage, he was even asked to quit the election to save the face of fellow Republicans.
Johnson, an American evangelical pastor for Heart of Fire church in Louisville, authored a number of bills that promoted religious teaching and religious liberty. He even proposed a bill that mandates public schools to teach the bible.
The evangelical pastor turned politician was made epicenter of media attention on Monday after a woman alleged that Johnson sexually assaulted her in 2013 in the basement of his house. The woman also claimed that she was a minor at the time of her going through the harrowing experience.
Even though the assault survivor registered a case with police at the time, she later closed it. The account of the woman was published by Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting on Monday, putting Johnson in defense.[irp]
Just 24-hours before he shot himself, Johnson held a press conference in which he categorically denied the allegation. The press conference was held at his church in Louisville and he was seen along with friends and family singing Christmas song “O Come All Ye Faithful”, reported Associated Press.
He said to the press that all the allegations against him are baseless and is part of a larger nation-wide conspiracy against Republicans. He even cited the case of Republican Roy Moore, who is also facing sexual assault allegations.
Just hours before he decided to take his life, Johnson wrote on Facebook, “The accusations from NPR are false,” adding that America “will not survive this type of judge and jury fake news.
In response to the post of Johnson NPR wrote, “We neither investigated the story nor aired or published it, but the accusations of sexual assault were part of an unflattering profile of Johnson published Monday by Louisville Public Media’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KyCIR).”
He also wrote, “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.” He requested people to care for his wife in the concluding words of the post.
“I am very sad over the passing of Rep. Dan Johnson. 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,” wrote Speaker of KY House of Representatives Jeff Hoover.[irp]
“In America, those accused of wrongdoing are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Persons posting accusations on social media as truth, and those who are self-righteous and indignant over mere accusations must do better. Personal attacks don’t have to be part of politics,” Hoover attacked those who criticized Johnson before finding him guilty of the accusation.
“Our aim, as always, is to provide the public with fact-based, unbiased reporting and hold public officials accountable for their actions,” Michael Skoler, president of Louisville Public Media, which owns the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that published the story on sexual assault said to AP.
“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,” he added.