A Brevard County deputy was fatally shot on accident by his fellow deputy and roommate after the roommate “jokingly” pulled the trigger of the gun he mistakenly believed to be unloaded.
According to Sheriff Wayne Ivey, 23-year-old Deputy Austin Walsh was shot and killed on December 3 at his Palm Bay apartment, owing to the “clearly dumb and avoidable accident.”
The roommate, Andrew Lawson, was arrested and charged with manslaughter.
According to a probe by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Palm Bay Police Department, the two were standing and talking after playing the online game Call of Duty with friends. Lawson then “jokingly” pointed his Glock 34 semi-automatic pistol — which he believed to be unloaded — at Walsh and pulled the trigger.
The redacted affidavit said that the first time Lawson pulled the trigger, the gun did not go off. Still believing the gun to be unloaded, Lawson pulled the trigger a second time. This time, the gun fired.
The single shot struck Deputy Walsh in the head and instantly killed him.
Sheriff Ivey said Lawson immediately called 9-1-1 and said he had accidentally shot Walsh. Officers arriving on the scene found Lawson “fully distraught and devastated.”
Walsh’s body was found inside the residence. It appeared as if the deputy “succumbed immediately” to a gunshot wound.
Lawson turned himself into jail the next day.
Ivey said the two men were “the best of friends” and that Lawson is “completely devastated.”
“Even with that, there is no excuse for this tragic and totally avoidable death,” Ivey added.
Lawson is currently being held at the Brevard County jail on a no-bond warrant.
A manslaughter charge in the state of Florida can carry a sentence of 15 years in prison.
“Folks, this unnecessary and totally avoidable incident not only took the life of an amazing young man and deputy, but it has forever changed the life of another good young man who made an extremely poor and reckless decision,” Ivey said.
For Ivey, it was “one of the toughest days of my career.” He said he loved both of the deputies and that they were “good kids.”
According to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, Walsh served on the agency’s Explorers youth program as an adolescent and joined the agency at the age of 18.
“If nothing else, I pray there is a lesson learned from this tragedy,” Ivey said.