'Tiger King' Reptile Dealer Jeff Johnson Dead by Suicide at 58

Jeff Johnson — who appeared in episode 4 of the Netflix docuseries — died by suicide in September, according to police


Jeff Johnson, known to Netflix viewers as the reptile dealer who was featured in Tiger King, has died at 58, according to police.

Johnson died on Sept. 8 by suicide following an argument with his wife in their home's garage, the Oklahoma City Police Department confirms. In an incident report obtained by PEOPLE, police said Johnson was in front of his wife when he shot himself.

The report states that Johnson's wife immediately called 911 and when local authorities arrived at the scene, he still had a pulse. However, Johnson was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital.

Police said the couple's children were also home when the incident took place and Johnson was not known to suffer from any mental illnesses prior to his death.

Johnson made a brief appearance in season 1, episode 4 of Tiger King, which premiered in 2020, where he spoke about animal-rights activist Carole Baskin.

The Netflix docuseries captured the nation's attention at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, documenting the Oklahoma big cat zoo operated by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, otherwise known as Joe Exotic. In April 2019, Maldonado-Passage was found guilty in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his rival, Baskin. He was sentenced in 2020 to serve 22 years in prison for that and other crimes, which included killing tigers to make room for more big cats at his exotic animal park.


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Johnson died just days after zookeeper Erik Cowie — who also appeared in Tiger King.

Cowie died on Sept. 3 from acute and chronic alcohol use in his Brooklyn, New York apartment, PEOPLE confirmed at the time. His manner of death has been determined as natural.

Prior to his death, Cowie worked alongside Joe Exotic as one of the zookeepers at the ill-fated G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood. Cowie testified against Joe Exotic in the case.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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