The death of a longtime Senate employee and popular youth baseball coach on Capitol Hill who was severely injured during a May altercation outside a restaurant has been ruled a homicide, according to D.C. police.
This week’s ruling from the medical examiner’s office ends a long wait for the family of Berner Richard Johnson III, 48, known as “Bud.”
Johnson’s relatives said they have long believed his death following an argument outside the Scarlet Oak restaurant and bar in the Navy Yard area was criminal.
The medical examiner said Johnson died of blunt force injuries to the head.
Relatives said in May police told them they had identified people involved in the argument. Police have not made any arrests and said the investigation is ongoing.
The incident happened about 11:30 p.m. on May 15 in the 100 block of K Street SE, around the corner from the restaurant on New Jersey Avenue SE and across the street from where Johnson lived with his wife and 14-year-old son. Johnson died at a hospital on May 19. Police said a contributing cause of his death was ethanol intoxication.
A police report classified the incident as an aggravated assault. In an online post to residents, police said Johnson “got into a dispute with a group of individuals, ultimately leading to the complainant being assaulted.”
Relatives said in May that they believed Johnson argued with people inside the restaurant, where he was a regular, and that the dispute continued on the street outside, a few blocks from Nationals Park.
Family members posted frequent, intimate updates on the CaringBridge website while Johnson was hospitalized.
At one point, they wrote, “the situation did not improve” and his final moments were being planned. His kidneys and liver were donated and he was taken off life support.
Johnson played on a softball team, and players flocked to his hospital bedside. He coached his sons’ teams in the Capitol Hill Little League, where he was known for his patience.
He also worked for 30 years in the document room in the basement of the Hart Senate Office Building, which provides copies of bills, resolutions, legislative reports and other publications. He started working there when he was 18 and received his anniversary pin two weeks before he died.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke of Johnson on the Senate floor shortly after the death, saying “he was beloved by his Senate family.” Schumer called the death “a reminder to all of us that life is fleeting and to hold tight to those we love.”
Johnson had two children from a first marriage, Cory Johnson, 29, and Brad Johnson, 28. He married Diane Johnson, a schoolteacher in Montgomery County, nearly 23 years ago, and they have a son, Bo, who is 14.
They moved to the Navy Yard area about 10 years ago and into Capitol Hill Tower on New Jersey Avenue, a one-minute walk to the Scarlet Oak.
The family described the restaurant as his go-to place, writing on the website, “Think of ‘Cheers’ for Bud.”