On Wednesday, state lawmaker Dan Johnson drove to a bridge in Mount Washington, Kentucky, parked his car and shot himself in the head, authorities said

By Steve Helling
December 14, 2017 10:15 PM

On Wednesday afternoon, Dan Johnson, a 57-year-old father of five, drove to a bridge in Mount Washington, Kentucky, parked his car on the north side and fatally shot himself in the head, authorities have said.

His body was found on the nearby riverbank.

Johnson, a first-term Republican state representative from Louisville, Kentucky, killed himself just two days after a political scandal had enveloped his career.

On Monday, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an exposé that alleged sexual misconduct by the lawmaker.

Here are four things to know about the case and about Johnson.

According to the KCIR’s investigation, titled “The Pope’s Long Con,” Johnson allegedly woke his daughter’s 17-year-old friend Maranda Richmond early on Jan. 1, 2013, following a New Year’s Eve party, and kissed and groped her.

He denied her allegation at a Tuesday news conference — and was never charged in connection with it, though it was previously reported to police — and he said he would not resign.

“This allegation concerning this lady, this young girl, absolutely has no merit,” he said. “These are unfounded accusations, totally.”

“I don’t want to blast this girl; I have a lot of compassion for her,” he said. “I’m very sorrowful that she’s in this dark place in her life.”

2. Johnson Was a Clergyman and Had Stirred Controversy Before

Before being elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 2016, Johnson was the pastor of Heart of Fire church in Louisville.

Known to his congregants as “Danny Ray Johnson,” he was a tattooed, dynamic speaker who preached about Jesus — but also spoke extensively about patriotism and a Christian’s right to carry guns.

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In several YouTube videos, he can be seen holding firearms and talking about the Biblical mandate to arm oneself.

The church wasn’t traditional: The sign in front said “motorcycles welcome” and mentioned the praise band. Bikers would ride up on their Harleys.

While campaigning for his state seat, Johnson resisted calls that he drop out after his divisive Facebook posts came to public attention — including one that showed the Obamas as apes, another that read, in part, “Islam sucks,” and a third that stated, “I [love] being white.” (He said he “surely didn’t post anything to offend anyone.”)

Johnson was narrowly elected in the 2016 election, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Kentucky lawmaker Dan Johnson on Tuesday
Timothy D. Easley/AP/Shutterstock

3. Johnson Left a Suicide Note on Facebook

Just before taking his life, Johnson posted a suicide note on his Facebook in which he once again denied the allegations:

“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 !’ “

According to the sheriff, one of Johnson’s followers saw the message and called authorities, who tracked his cell phone and found his body.

4. Johnson’s Wife, Rebecca, Wants to Run for His Seat

In a statement to the Associated Press, Johnson’s wife called his death a “high tech lynching” and said she will seek to replace him in the Kentucky legislature.

Early Thursday morning, Rebecca also posted a message on Facebook referencing her husband’s suicide.

“I Lost the LOVE of MY Life tonight, He was a Gift to ALL who knew him,” she wrote. “He was always Encouraging, Helping others, Giving All he had to give and bringing Joy and Laughter to all he met.”

Her post — which was reviewed by PEOPLE — is no longer publicly available.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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