I’ve got a range safety poster from the 1950s on my office wall, and the very first rule is “Treat every gun as it were loaded until you personally prove otherwise.” That fundamental rule, along with the rule about keeping your muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times, was allegedly violated by a sheriff’s deputy in Florida this past weekend, leading to the death of his roommate and manslaughter charges being filed.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey says Deputy Austin Walsh was shot and killed early Saturday morning by fellow deputy Andrew Lawson in what the sheriff described as a “tragic and totally avoidable death.”
The two were taking a break from playing online games with friends and were standing and talking together when Lawson, who believed he had unloaded his gun, “jokingly” pointed the weapon at Walsh and pulled the trigger, Ivey said, citing the probe by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Palm Bay Police Department.
A single bullet was fired, struck Walsh, and killed him, officials said.
Lawson immediately called 911 saying he accidentally shot his roommate and needed help, Ivey said. When officers arrived, they found Lawson “fully distraught and devastated.”
They found Walsh inside the residence where he “apparently succumbed immediately” to a gunshot wound, Ivey said.
Ivey said the two men were “the best of friends” and Lawson is “completely devastated” over what happened.
“Folks this unnecessary and totally avoidably 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.
The sheriff said talking about the fatal incident was “one of the toughest days of my career” as he loved both of the deputies and believed both to be “good kids.”
Walsh had served with the agency since he was 18 and was part of its Explorers youth program before that, according to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
“If nothing else, I pray there is a lesson learned from this tragedy,” Ivey said.
The lesson here is simple: don’t **** around and treat your guns like they’re toys. You don’t “jokingly” point a gun at anyone, regardless of whether or not you believe the gun is unloaded.
Lawson should have been ingrained to follow these rules, and yet apparently completely and willfully ignored them. As a result, two lives have been destroyed, and a good man is gone too soon.
Walsh’s accused killer is currently sitting in the Brevard County Jail on a no-bond warrant and charged with manslaughter for the 23-year old’s “dumb and avoidable” actions, which Ivey described as an “accident”. I’d use the term negligence, to be honest, because I don’t consider this to be an accident. You don’t accidentally pick up a gun and point it at someone. You don’t accidentally pull the trigger. You may mistakenly believe that a gun is unloaded, but you don’t “accidentally” believe that to be the case. There were a series of inexplicably bad decisions made in the moments before Austin Walsh’s life was taken, and while they were all huge mistakes, none of them were accidents.