Dante Austin

Dante Austin was a deputy sheriff who served as the sheriff’s LGBTQ community liaison.

— Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia. Photo by Nathan James.

An investigation is underway after the LGBTQ liaison for the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office was found dead at his desk on Friday.

Deputy Dante Austin, 27, was found dead in his office at 100 S. Broad St., according to a statement by the Sheriff’s Office, pending confirmation from the Medical Examiner’s Office. He reportedly was found with a single gunshot wound to the head, which officials believe was self-inflicted.

Austin’s death comes just weeks before he was scheduled to be promoted to sergeant on July 1.

“This is a tragedy for the Sheriff’s Office, deputy Austin’s family and the local LGBT community,” Sheriff Jewel Williams said in a statement.

“Dante was a person who believed in and cared about everybody,” he 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.”

The Pride flag at City Hall was lowered to half-mast in Austin’s honor on Friday. As news of his passing spread, officials from across the city expressed their regret over Austin’s untimely death.

“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 ... generosity that moved so many of us,” wrote Amber Hikes, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, on Twitter.

“Dante’s legacy is one of boldness, bravery, compassion, and an unfailing commitment to a kinder and more just world for all,” she said. “‘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.”

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