Philadelphia’s first openly gay Deputy Sheriff allegedly committed suicide at his desk from an apparent gunshot wound on Friday, just before the city’s weekend of pride celebrations were set to begin.
Austin was an Army veteran who also served as the department’s first LGBTQ community liaison and was known as a “fierce advocate.” He was set to be promoted to the position of sergeant next month, according to CBS Philly.
Sheriff Jewell Williams reflected on Austin’s service with the Philadelphia Police Department, which he joined in 2013, and called his death “a tragedy for the Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Austin’s family and the local LGBTQ community. Dante was a person who believed in and cared about everybody,” Williams said.
The rainbow pride flag at the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office was lowered to half-staff to honor his memory on Friday, and the one at City Hall will do the same. The William Way LGBT Community Center hosted an informal gathering on Friday with food, drinks and peer counselors to help those coping with the loss.