Police are investigating the death of Philadelphia Deputy Sheriff Dante Austin, 27, who died inside the Philadelphia Sheriff Office Friday.
Austin’s body was reportedly found at his desk at 6:45 a.m. Austin was the Sheriff’s office, first-ever LGBTQ community liaison. He was also the office’s first openly gay deputy sheriff.
Sheriff Jewell shared the news on Facebook and said, “He had the highest score on the Deputy Sheriff’s exam when he was hired in November 2013. He was our first openly gay deputy sheriff and we promoted him to become our first LGBTQ community liaison in May 2017. He was scheduled to be promoted to sergeant on July 1, 2019.”
Cops believe that Austin died from a self-inflicted gun wound, but Sheriff Williams told ABC that an official ruling of Austin death will be coming from the medical examiner’s office.
Austin was also veteran of the Army National Guard. Williams also said in a Facebook post that, “Dante was a person who believed in and cared about everybody.”
Officials lowered the pride flag at Philadelphia City Hall to half-mast on Friday to honor Austin. Williams said the offices closed at noon Friday and grief counselors were offered to the staff.
William Way Community Center welcomed all those mourning the loss of Austin. Chris Bartlett, the center’s executive director, spoke with Inquirer.com and said that “He was part of a growing generation of LGBTQ leadership of color who was poised to take over the reins from community members like me.”
Research from the American Public Health Association reports that gay and bisexual men attempt suicide at four times the rate as a straight men.
Reginald T. Shuford, executive director of ACLU of Pennsylvania, spoke with Inquirer.com about Austin and said “Dante’s passing is a sad reminder that LGBTQ people have higher rates of suicide attempts and suicide ideation” and added that, “It’s a symptom of a society that, while improving, mistreats members of the LGBTQ community in unfair and dehumanizing ways.”
If you or someone you know is considerating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255. If calling isn’t an option, you can use chat function online.