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The death of Boeing whistleblower John Barnett in Charleston, South Carolina has been ruled a suicide by the coroner. Barnett was found dead in his truck with a gunshot wound to the head after failing to show up for his second day of depositions in a lawsuit against Boeing. His lawyers called for a wellness check, which led to the discovery of his body. Investigators confirmed that he had a pistol in his hand, gunshot residue on his hand, a single shell casing in the truck, and a suicide note on the passenger seat. All findings pointed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound as the cause of death.

The coroner’s report concluded that the gunshot wound was the official cause of Barnett’s death and classified it as a suicide. Police found Barnett locked inside his vehicle with the key fob and no signs of unusual travel patterns or communications in his phone records. Hotel surveillance video showed him leaving the hotel alone before returning to reverse into a parking spot. No one approached the vehicle until it was found the next morning. Barnett had legally purchased the handgun in 2000, and his fingerprints were found on the suicide note.

Barnett’s lawsuit against Boeing alleged retaliation, harassment, and spying by the company. He had worked for Boeing for over 30 years before retiring in 2017 as a quality-control engineer. In interviews, Barnett had expressed concerns about safety compromises at Boeing, particularly regarding the 787 Dreamliner and 737 Max 9 jets. Despite the ongoing struggles at Boeing, including the resignation of CEO Dave Calhoun, there is no indication that the company played a role in Barnett’s death.

One of Barnett’s lawyers, Robert Turkewitz, had previously stated that he did not believe Boeing was involved in Barnett’s death but also found it hard to believe that Barnett would take his own life. Barnett’s legal team did not immediately respond to the coroner’s findings. The circumstances surrounding Barnett’s death and the details revealed by the coroner raise questions about the events leading up to his tragic passing. The official report sheds some light on the investigation but leaves many unanswered questions.

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