Philadelphia's deputy sheriff and LGBTQ liaison Dante Austin was found dead at his desk on Friday morning, according to reports.
The 27-year-old, who was the city’s first openly gay deputy sheriff and had been promoted as the LGBTQ community liaison in 2017, apparently shot himself to death, although confirmation from the medical examiner’s office is still pending.
Terrell Green, Austin's close friend, said they attended LOVE Park the day before his death on Thursday for the raising of a rainbow flag, marking June as Gay Pride Month.
"Dante was a person who believed in and cared about everybody,” Sheriff Jewell Williams said in a statement. “He had the highest score on the Deputy Sheriff’s exam when he was hired in November 2013."
The incident is “a tragedy for the Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Austin’s family, and the local LGBTQ community,” Williams added.
Austin, an Army veteran who was working in the Civil Enforcement Unit, was scheduled to be promoted to sergeant on July 1. He was widely praised as being 'brave and compassionate', having dedicated his short life to public office.
Austin's body was found at his desk at 100 S. Broad St on Friday. Sheriff Williams said the rainbow flag at the City Hall will be lowered to half-staff in his honor.
Michael Grossberg, who worked with Austin for the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund -- an organization that provides funding to LGBTQ nonprofits -- said that regardless of the motives of his death, the tragedy is indicative that the community needs to support each other and that the loss will deeply affect the members of the LGBTQ community of Philadelphia.
"I think the LGBT community in Philadelphia has struggled with issues of race and issues of equality and having leaders like Dante in our community was really fundamental," Grossberg told CBSPhilly.
"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," read a statement by the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs.
"Dante’s legacy is one of boldness, bravery, compassion, and an unfailing commitment to a kinder and more just world for all,” the statement added.