On Friday, Deputy Sheriff Dante Austin was found dead inside the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 27.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the city’s first openly gay deputy sheriff died by suicide, according to findings confirmed by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office.
Amber Kee, one of Austin’s three sisters, told the Inquirer that Austin was seeking a therapist to help alleviate the tremendous stress he was under.
“He had an amazing life. I think it just shows that depression and mental health will affect anybody,” Kee said. “It wasn’t as if something happened to him to make him take his life. It was depression.”
Terrell Green, one of Austin’s close friends, identified additional factors that may have contributed to Austin’s untimely passing: The death of his 9-month old goddaughter and a recently broken off engagement. Yet despite such heartbreak, Green believed Austin had a positive outlook.
“He told me he had just finished another great semester in grad school, and in our last conversation he expressed to me that he really wants to run for sheriff in the next election,” said Green. “I saw him the night before. He called me at 12:11 a.m. that Friday morning. I missed the call, unfortunately.”
Austin was a U.S. Army veteran who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2013 after earning his bachelor’s degree at Rosemont College. At the time of his death, he was working on completing his Master’s degree in public administration from West Chester University.
He’ll be remembered for his tireless volunteer efforts, in addition to his “passion, dedication, and leadership,” Kee said, according to Inquirer.
“Everything that you could think that a good person would do, he was involved in,” Kee said.
Huffington Post reports that a memorial was held on Friday at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia, which allowed friends, family and members of the community to celebrate Austin’s memory or to receive peer counseling if needed.
“This is a tragedy for the Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Austin’s family and the local LGBTQ community,” Sheriff Jewell Williams said in a statement. “Dante was a person who believed in and cared about everybody.”
If you or someone y0u know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-TALK (8255).