LGBTQ liaison for Philadelphia Sheriff's Office found dead

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- An investigation is underway after a deputy died inside the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office on Friday morning.

Deputy Dante Austin was found dead at his desk on Friday morning. Officials believe Austin died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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LGBTQ liaison for Philadelphia Sheriff's Office dies. Maggie Kent reports during Action News at Noon on June 7, 2019.

Sheriff Jewell Williams said an official ruling on Austin's death will come from the Medical Examiner's Office.

"This is a tragedy for the Sheriff's Office, Deputy Austin's family, and the local LGBTQ community," said Williams.

"Dante was a person who believed in and cared about everybody," Williams 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."

Austin was an Army National Guard veteran, Williams said.

The William Way Community Center opened its doors to those who are mourning Austin's sudden passing.

"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," said Chris Bartlett, the center's executive director.

This comes just before the weekend Pride celebrations in Philadelphia, which will commence with a parade.

"Obviously we're devastated. We're looking to have a pride weekend that will be an honor to his great legacy," said Bartlett.

The pride flag outside Philadelphia City Hall was lowered to half-staff on Friday in Austin's honor.

Williams said the office closed at noon on Friday. Grief counselors will be provided for employees.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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