A tragic situation unfolded over the weekend when a young cop in Florida allegedly failed to follow basic gun safety protocol and “accidentally” killed his best friend.
According to a video message from Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, the incident involved two police officers: Austin Walsh, 23, and Andrew Lawson, whose age is unknown. The two men, described by Ivey as “the best of friends,” lived together in Palm Bay and worked together at the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
On Saturday morning, the two were taking a break from playing online video games with a few friends. They were “just kind of standing around talking,” the police report says, when Lawson grabbed a gun. Lawson believed that he had previously unloaded the gun, so he “jokingly” pointed the gun at Walsh and pulled the trigger.
Lawson fired a single round, which fatally struck Walsh, Ivey reported.
Lawson then called 911 and begged for help. When Palm Bay officers arrived, they found Walsh on the floor. He had apparently “succumbed immediately” to his injuries.
Ivey has described Lawson as “completely devastated” by his alleged actions and “fully cooperative” in the investigation. Lawson has been charged with manslaughter with a firearm and booked in the Brevard County Jail.
Though professional throughout the video message, Ivey also admitted his own emotional investment in both men and in this heartbreaking case.
“Folks, this is one of the toughest days of my career,” he openly stated in the video.
Walsh had worked for the department for about five years and even volunteered there before he turned 18 because he was so passionate about law enforcement. He dreamed of becoming a deputy sheriff one day.
Lawson had just been sworn in as a deputy back in May, and a video from that ceremony, shared by the Daily Mail, shows a man beaming with enthusiasm and promise.
Left: Andrew Lawson | Right: Sheriff Wayne IveyScreen shot of Daily Mail video
“I personally know both of these kids and they were the best,” he continued. “Austin was passionate about his job and loved the community he so proudly served. And Andrew, he’s a great kid who sadly made a horrible and irresponsible decision that has forever impacted the lives of so many.”
All police officers and responsible gun owners are trained to treat every firearm as loaded and dangerous, even if believed to be unloaded or inoperable. Such a necessary precaution can be the difference between life and death, as Walsh’s heartbreaking demise at such a young age demonstrates.