LGBTQ liaison for Philadelphia Sheriff's Office found dead

PHILADELPHIA -- A death investigation is underway after a deputy died inside the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office just weeks before he was scheduled to be promoted.

Deputy Dante Austin was found dead at his desk on Friday morning.

Sister station WPVI-TV reported that officials believe Austin died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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 veteran, Williams said.

The pride flag outside Philadelphia City Hall will be 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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