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Reptile trafficker ‘Tiger King’ committed suicide in front of his wife, police confirm


One of the tigers living at the Grand Wynnewood Exotic Wildlife Park is pictured in Wynnewood Park, Oklahoma in 2013. (AP Photo / Sue Ogrocki, File)

(WJW) – A reptile dealer who made an appearance on the Netflix hit “Tiger King” has died by suicide.

The Oklahoma City Police Department confirmed that Jeff Johnson, 58, died on September 8 after an argument with his wife, People reported Monday.

According to police documents, Johnson shot himself in front of his wife, People reports. Her children were also at home at the time.

Johnson appeared in the fourth episode of the first season of “Tiger King”.

Just five days before Johnson’s death, “Tiger King” zookeeper Erik Cowie died at the age of 54. He was found face down in a New York City residence. No criminal act was suspected.

Cowie had remained at the Oklahoma Tiger Zoo even after its former owner, Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was put in jail. However, the space is now closed to the public. Cowie admitted to having a drinking problem prior to appearing in the “Tiger King” series.

Exotic was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison after being convicted of attempting to hire two different men to kill Florida animal rights activist Carole Baskin. He was recently transferred to a medical facility in North Carolina for federal inmates after a cancer diagnosis, according to his attorney.

If you or someone you know might be at risk for suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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