PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — The rainbow flag outside Philadelphia’s City Hall flew at half-staff Friday as the city mourned the loss of an advocate for the LGBTQ community.
Dante Austin, 27, was the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office’s first openly gay deputy sheriff and its first LGBTQ community liaison, Sheriff Jewell Williams said in a statement.
Austin was found dead at his desk Friday morning from what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Austin’s death shook Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community as pride celebrations were ramping up this weekend.
“This is a tragedy for the Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Austin’s family and the local LGBTQ community,” Williams said. “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.”
A U.S. Army veteran, Austin earned the highest score on the Deputy Sheriff’s exam when he was hired in November 2013, Williams said.
He was elevated to LGBTQ liaison in May 2017. He 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.”