Dante Austin, 27, Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office’s first openly gay deputy sheriff was found dead ay his place of work ahead of the city's annual Pride Parade.
According to reports, Austin was found dead at his desk Friday morning, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“This is a tragedy for the sheriff’s office, Deputy Austin’s family and the local LGBTQ community,” LGBTQ community liaison, Sheriff Jewell Williams said in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to Dante’s family, and the many colleagues and community members whose lives he touched with his limitless kindness, expansive heart, and remarkable talent.”
Army veteran Austin earned the highest score on the deputy sheriff’s exam when he was hired in November 2013, Williams revealed. He
He was then made LGBTQ liaison in May 2017. Austin was set to be promoted to sergeant on July 1.
“Dante worked tirelessly, always, to lift up the most marginalized among us, to secure safety and protection for the most vulnerable, and to serve his community with unparalleled dedication and a warmth and generosity that moved so many of us,” the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs said.
“Dante’s legacy is one of boldness, bravery, compassion, and an unfailing commitment to a kinder and more just world for all. As we move forward in mourning and honoring our friend and colleague, may we cherish and celebrate the ways he changed us, improved our city, and protected and saved lives.”
“Friends, I am destroyed and heartbroken by the news that ripped through our community this morning,” Amber Hikes, executive director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, said via Facebook page.
“Our beautiful Dante was a powerful force and a loving friend, beloved by our communities and by me personally,” Hikes continued. “We will be feeling the devastation of this loss in every corner of our work, celebration, and love. It is nearly impossible to put into words how much he meant to all of us.”