A deputy was arrested for manslaughter this weekend for allegedly shooting and killing his roommate, a fellow deputy. What led to the shooting? A joke gone extraordinarily wrong, authorities say.
Defendant Andrew Lawson, 22, pointed a gun at victim Austin Walsh, 23, and pulled the trigger while believing the firearm to be empty, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said in a video statement.
Neither man was on duty at the time. Early Saturday morning, they were taking a break from an online game they were playing with friends, Ivey said. Walsh and Lawson were standing around and talking when the incident happened, the sheriff said.
“Lawson was holding a handgun, which he believed he had unloaded, and at one point in their conversation, Lawson, thinking that the gun was unloaded, jokingly pointed the gun at Austin’s direction and pulled the trigger,” Ivey said.
The sheriff’s office maintains this was an accident. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Palm Bay Police Department handled the investigation, Ivey said.
According to the sheriff, police received a 911 call early Saturday morning from Lawson, who said he accidentally shot his roommate and needed help.
“When officers from Palm Bay PD arrived, they were met by off-duty deputy Andrew Lawson, who was fully distraught and devastated,” Ivey said.
But police said they found Walsh in the residence, where he apparently died immediately from a single gunshot wound.
Ivey called the incident “an extremely dumb and totally avoidable accident” but maintained the men were the “best of friends,” and that Lawson was devastated.
Lawson was taken into custody for manslaughter with a firearm. Records show he does not have an attorney.
Walsh had been a member of the sheriff’s Explorers program for several years before joining the office at age 18, authorities said.
“Man, Austin was such a great kid, and our hearts are broken over his loss,” Ivey said.
[Image of Walsh via Brevard County Sheriff’s Office]
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