An autopsy confirmed Thursday that state Rep. Dan Johnson committed suicide Wednesday night, a day after he denied accusations that he had sexually molested a 17-year-old girl.
“His method of death is a single bullet wound to the head and the mode of death is a suicide,” Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings said Thursday morning.
Police said the lawmaker was found Wednesday night alongside Greenwell Ford Road in Mount Washington, where he had stopped his car at the end of a bridge in a secluded area. A 40 caliber pistol was found near his body.
In a Facebook message that was posted before his death but has since been deleted, Johnson said the accusations are false and that “GOD and only GOD knows the truth, nothing is the way they make it out to be.”
Johnson went on to say PTSD is a sickness “that will take my life,” asked for everyone to “Forgive and Love everyone especially yourself” and “blame no person, Satan is the accuser so blame the Devil himself.”
Mike Cook, a chief deputy with the Bullitt County Sherrif’s Office, said the Facebook post led Johnson’s wife to call police Wednesday night.
“The fact that they couldn’t get ahold of him, that was the concern,” Cook said.
Police “pinged” Johnson’s cell phone in an attempt to locate him, but they found him based on a 911 call that said a man shot himself near the bridge, Cook said.
As Kentucky lawmakers learned of Johnson’s death Wednesday night and Thursday morning, several expressed their grief on Twitter.
Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, expressed his sympathy for Johnson’s family before calling for more kindness in Frankfort.
“In this indecent time, we need decency and kindness, even for those who we feel don’t deserve it and (especially) toward those being nasty,” Nemes said. “Kindness is not weak. It is strong. It is right and just.”
The Republican Party of Kentucky and House Republican Leadership called for Johnson to resign from his seat in the House of Representatives Monday, after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published a lengthy article that said Johnson allegedly forcibly kissed, groped and used his finger to penetrate a 17-year-old girl, despite her asking him to stop, on New Year’s Eve 2012.
KyCIR also reported that Johnson had been indicted for an attempted arson in 1985 and called into question several aspects of his life story, including his claim that he set up a morgue in New York City in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, who was a freshman lawmaker with Johnson, blamed the Republican Party, Democratic Party and news media in a tweet Wednesday night. On Thursday, he tweeted the phone number to the suicide prevention hotline.
“Waking up with a heavy heart over the death of my friend Rep. Dan Johnson,” Morgan said. “Please remember that even when you feel at your lowest, you are never alone. People will say and do terrible things to you in this world. But nothing is worth taking your life.”
Governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, asked people to be respectful of the family and not say hateful things on social media.
“Would ask sincerely that all the nasty, vulgar comments & other despicable responses to the news of KY Representative Dan Johnson’s death, be kept in the minds and hearts of those who have them...Don’t share..Please have respect for his family and friends at this time...Thank you,” Bevin tweeted.
Rep. Jim DuPlessis, who sat next to Johnson in the House of Representatives, had kind words for Johnson Wednesday night.
“Dan Johnson was my seat mate,” said DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown. “I found him to be very kind, soft spoken, and concerned for others. He was passionate about others, I saw it often yet he needed help himself. Prayers for his family and for the turmoil in Frankfort.”
Johnson was a controversial lawmaker during his time in Frankfort. He was asked by the Republican Party of Kentucky to withdraw from the 2016 general election after it was reported that he posted racist images on his Facebook page. Johnson stayed in the race and beat the Democratic incumbent in the 49th House District by fewer than 200 votes.
Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, who frequently called out Johnson for his racist Facebook posts during the election, posted a link to the suicide prevention lifeline and said she was praying for Johnson’s family.
“I lift up the Johnson family in prayer at this time of bereavement,” Scott tweeted. “I pray for the young woman who shared her story of sexual assault that she may live a full and healthy life. People commit suicide for any number of reasons...”
Several lawmakers said they were keeping the Johnson family in their prayers, including Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence.
“Words are inadequate in this sorrowful time. Jan and I extend our heartfelt condolences and prayers for Rep. Dan Johnson’s wife Rebecca, their entire family, his congregation and friends. Dan, eternal peace.”