‘Tiger King’ reptile dealer killed self in front of wife, police confirm


One of the tigers living at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is pictured at the park in Wynnewood, Okla. 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 has confirmed that Jeff Johnson, 58, died on Sept. 8 after an argument with his wife, People reported Monday. According to police documents, Johnson shot himself in front of his wife, People reports. His children were also 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 age 54. He was found facedown in a New York City residence. No foul play was suspected.

Cowie had stayed on at the Oklahoma tiger zoo even after its former owner, Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was put in prison. However, the space is now closed to the public. Cowie had admitted to having a drinking problem before being on the “Tiger King” series.

Exotic was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison after being convicted of trying 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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