Boeing whistleblower John Barnett died by suicide, coroner rules

Paige Cornwell, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Boeing whistleblower John “Mitch” Barnett took his own life on March 9, South Carolina authorities reiterated in two reports released Friday. All findings suggest he died from a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Barnett, 62, was found dead in his truck in Charleston, S.C. He was in the midst of giving depositions alleging Boeing retaliated against him for complaints about quality lapses, and was scheduled to continue depositions the day his body was found.

As he was a Boeing whistleblower caught up in a long legal fight with his embattled former employer, Barnett’s death received global attention. That attention intensified this month when a second whistleblower, Joshua Dean of Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, died from an infection.

Immediately after his death, Barnett’s attorneys, Robert Turkewitz and Brian Knowles, called for an investigation into his death and said at the time there was no indication he would take his own life.

The Charleston Police Department and Charleston County Coroner’s Office separately released detailed reports Friday that included nearly 100 pages of incident reports, a 911 recording from the hotel worker who found Barnett, and a photo of the note Barnett left behind.

“We remain acutely aware of the sensitivity and public interest surrounding this case,” police said in a statement Friday. “It is important to emphasize that our investigation was guided strictly by facts and evidence while remaining undisturbed by conjecture and external pressures.


“As this investigation comes to a close, we should not forget it represents the loss of Mr. Barnett’s life.”

A review of medical records and interviews found that Barnett was under chronic stress because of his whistleblower case, was experiencing anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and was grieving the 2022 death of his wife, according to the coroner’s report.

Investigators recovered surveillance footage showing Barnett leaving a Holiday Inn the evening of March 8. His Dodge Ram is then seen backing into a parking space minutes later. The truck remained in the parking spot throughout the night of March 8 and into the morning of March 9, video footage showed. No one else entered or exited the truck, nor did anyone approach the truck.

The vehicle brake lights blinked on and off around 7:20 a.m. March 9, the coroner’s report said. A Holiday Inn worker told officers he heard a “pop” sound that morning, but didn’t think anything of it.


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