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Lawmaker who spun history of heroics ends life in suicide

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky lawmaker’s resume included enough material for an award-winning memoir: He was a peacekeeper at the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, a White House chaplain to three presidents and a 9/11 first responder who gave last rites to hundreds of people at Ground Zero.

But Republican Dan Johnson’s carefully crafted history crumbled this week following an extensively reported story from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. The story tore down his claims and portrayed him as a con man whose deceptions propped up his ministry of a church of outcasts in Louisville and hid a sinister secret: a sexual assault allegation from a 17-year-old girl.

Johnson denied it all, declaring his innocence from the pulpit of the church where he was the self-appointed “pope.” By Wednesday night, he was dead, his body found on the side of a secluded road with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The death of the 57-year-old jolted Republican leaders, who were already struggling with a sexual harassment scandal that toppled the state’s first GOP House speaker in nearly 100 years plus three other Republican committee chairmen. Most in the party had already turned their back on Johnson, calling for his resignation following the sexual assault allegation and his history of posting racist photos on Facebook that depicted President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as monkeys.

By Thursday, many were offering messages of sympathy while acknowledging Johnson’s complex life.

“He was passionate about others, I saw it often yet he needed help himself,” GOP state Rep. Jim DuPlessis, who sat beside Johnson on the House floor, posted on Twitter.

Johnson’s wife, Rebecca Johnson, said her husband was the victim of a “high-tech lynching” and announced she would run to replace him in the Legislature.

Elected in 2016, he was part of a wave of Republican victories that gave the GOP a majority in the Kentucky House for the first time in nearly 100 years….

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