Sheriff: Deputy fatally shot deputy in ‘avoidable’ accident

PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) — A deputy mistakenly shot and killed his roommate, who was also a deputy, as the two took a break from playing an online game with friends while they were off duty, a Florida sheriff said.

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey called the shooting “an extremely dumb and totally avoidable accident” in a video posted on social media on Sunday afternoon in which he announced that Deputy Andrew Lawson, 23, was charged with manslaughter.

Deputy Austin Walsh, 23, died at the scene in their apartment in Palm Bay early Saturday morning.

The roommates had taken a break from playing the online game and were standing around talking when Lawson took out a gun he believed he had unloaded and “jokingly” pointed it at Walsh, the sheriff said. A round fired and hit Walsh.

Lawson immediately called 911 and was “distraught” and “devastated” when first responders arrived, Ivey said. Lawson cooperated fully with the investigation, which was conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Palm Bay Police Department.

Ivey said Lawson and Walsh were best friends and roommates.

“Folks, this unnecessary and totally avoidable incident not only took the life of an amazing young man and deputy, but it has also forever changed the life of another good young man who made an extremely poor and reckless decision,” Ivey said.

The sheriff said Walsh had been with the agency since he was 18.

“Austin was such a great kid, and our hearts are broken over his loss. He will be deeply missed by our agency, our community and our prayers are with his family,” Ivey said.

Lawson was taken to the Brevard County Jail on a “no bond” warrant, the sheriff said. It was not immediately known whether he has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.

The sheriff called Lawson “a great kid who sadly made a horrible and irresponsible decision that has forever impacted so many.”

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