‘It’s Not Suicide’: Boeing Whistleblower Warned Friend Before Being Found Dead
‘It’s Not Suicide’: Boeing Whistleblower Warned Friend Before Being Found Dead

By Aldgra Fredly

Boeing whistleblower John Barnett, whose body was found in a vehicle in South Carolina on March 9, had allegedly told a family friend that if anything were to happen to him, it wouldn’t be a result of suicide.

The 62-year-old was found dead “from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” according to the  Charleston County Coroner’s office, on the day he was scheduled to give his deposition in his case against Boeing.

Jennifer, a family friend of Mr. Barnett, told ABC News 4 that she didn’t think Mr. Barnett had died by suicide. She said that Mr. Barnett came by to visit her when she needed help and they talked about his deposition.

“He wasn’t concerned about safety because I asked him,” she told the news outlet on Friday. “I said, ‘Aren’t you scared?’ And he said, ‘No, I ain’t scared, but if anything happens to me, it’s not suicide.’”

Jennifer said that Mr. Barnett “loved life too much” and “loved his family too much” to take his own life. “I know that he did not commit suicide. There’s no way,” she noted.

She suspects foul play was involved because someone “didn’t like what he had to say” and meant to “shut him up,” without naming anyone.

“That’s why they made it look like a suicide,” she said, adding that Mr. Barnett’s death has left “everybody in disbelief.”

Mr. Barnett, who had worked for more than 30 years at Boeing before retiring in 2017, had become a vocal critic of the company’s safety and production quality practices.

At the time of his death, he was a key witness in a whistleblower lawsuit against Boeing, in which he claimed that the aircraft maker had retaliated against him for repeatedly reporting defects.

The coroner didn’t release additional details surrounding Mr. Barnett’s death, and the Charleston City Police Department is investigating the case.

Lawsuit Against Boeing Could Continue

Whistleblower attorney Stephen Kohn has said that his client’s death won’t necessarily end the lawsuit against Boeing. According to Mr. Kohn, Mr. Barnett’s estate could opt in as the complainant.

“He won’t be able to get reinstatement, but the estate should be able to get compensatory damages for the stress that he suffered and back retirement,” Mr. Kohn said.

According to the court filings in Mr. Barnett’s lawsuit, Boeing retaliated against him for exposing potential safety issues with the 787 Dreamliner, which entered commercial service on Oct. 26, 2011.

Barnett’s lawsuit also alleges the company targeted him with “downgraded performance reviews” and several instances of “removal from investigations, denial of transfers, harassment,” all of which the court filing claims amounted to a constructive discharge, or constructive dismissal, when an employee resigns due to a hostile work environment allegedly created by the employer.

Boeing has denied any wrongdoing and claims there was no workplace retaliation against Mr. Barnett. In 2022, Boeing failed to get the lawsuit thrown out, and the case was set to go before a judge later this year.

Mr. Barnett’s death has left his attorneys, Brian Knowles and Robert Turkewitz, at a loss to explain why he would allegedly take his own life. In a media statement, the pair said they didn’t “see any indication he would take his own life. No one can believe it.”

According to Mr. Knowles and Mr. Turkewitz, he was in “very good spirits” and “looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him and moving on.”

“We need more information about what happened to John. The Charleston police need to investigate this fully and accurately and tell the public what they find out. No detail can be left unturned,” they said.

Stephen Katte and Caden Pearson contributed to this report.

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