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Charleston Police Release Investigation Report of Boeing Whistleblower Death

Police investigation document analysis.

Charleston Police Release Investigation Report of Boeing Whistleblower Death

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Police Department released their investigation report concerning the death of a Boeing whistleblower, John Barnett, 62. Barnett was found deceased in his truck, with a gunshot wound to his head, on March 9, outside the Holiday Inn located at 301 Savannah Highway.

The United States Department of Labor was working through the discovery phase of its investigation into an alleged safety complaint raised by Barnett, who had been affiliated with Boeing for 32 years. The hearings on the complaint were scheduled for this June.

Details of the Investigation

According to the police report, there was no evidence of forced entry or struggle inside the orange 2015 Dodge Ram truck, suggesting that Mr. Barnett’s death was self-inflicted. The key fob for the truck was found in his pocket. The Charleston County Coroner’s Office confirmed the nature of the death to be suicide.

Police officers found a silver Smith and Wesson handgun, which Barnett legally purchased, in his right hand. Ballistics evidence corroborated that the bullet and casing were fired from the gun found in his possession. A note, which hinted at severe personal distress, was found in the passenger seat, with the fingerprint impressions matching Mr. Barnett’s.

Barnett’s Medical History

Mental Health Challenges

The police noted that Barnett’s medical records indicated a history of mental health challenges that seemed to exacerbated amid his ongoing legal predicaments. Manifestations included symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, fear of impending death of others, and recurrent intrusive thoughts.

Hotel Surveillance Footage

Investigators reviewed the surveillance footage from the hotel where Barnett stayed on the eve of his death. The footage showed Barnett entering his hotel room alone around 7:36 PM on March 8 and leaving after approximately an hour. His truck is seen backing into a parking space at 8:45 PM, where it stayed until the next morning when the police arrived for a wellness check.

Barnett’s Whistleblowing Activities at Boeing

Barnett was instrumental in alerting the Boeing management about their usage of sub-standard parts and of several issues concerning oxygen systems. His claims were brushed aside by the management, urging him to raise the issue with the media.

Barnett’s brother, Rodney, conveyed in a statement that his brother was deeply perturbed about aircraft safety, more specifically about several serious defects which according to him, were ignored by Boeing in favor of corporate profits. He added that his brother’s work situation was a source of stress and was responsible for triggering symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.

The Legal Battle

Prior to retiring back in 2017, Barnett filed a whistleblower retaliation claim against Boeing, alleging a hostile work environment caused severe stress which led him to take medical leave and early retirement. After reviewing and dismissing the quality issues raised by Barnett, Boeing attempted to dismiss his claims but their motion was denied in March 2022.

Concerns about the Boeing 787

In the past, Barnett had also communicated with the New York Times about quality issues at Boeing’s South Carolina, where the 787 jetliner is assembled. He lamented the presence of metal shavings near the flight control’s wiring, warning that unattended shavings could result in catastrophic outcomes.

He made similar claims to the BBC, stating that an estimated 25% of the oxygen systems on the 787 might be faulty due to defective parts installed at the Boeing plant. As a result, Barnett was moved to another part of the plant.

Air-21 Whistleblower Retaliation Case

In January 2017, Barnett filed an AIR-21 whistleblower retaliation case, pertained to his claims of facing a hostile work climate resulting from his protected whistleblower activities. When OSHA dismissed his claims in November 2020, he appealed for a hearing by the Office of Administrative Law Judges.

Barnett’s lawyers released documents portraying a hostile working environment at Boeing, before retiring early. These released documents state that his insistence on fully investigating and resolving issues led to his removal from defect investigations as a retaliation.

Charleston Police Release Investigation Report of Boeing Whistleblower Death

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Author: HERE Charleston

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