BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – An off-duty Brevard County deputy accused of mistakenly shooting and killing his roommate, a fellow deputy, as the two took a break from playing an online game with friends made his first appearance in court Monday.
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 facing a manslaughter charge.
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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 “Call of Duty,” a first-person shooter video game, after being kicked off due to inactivity and were standing around talking when Lawson took out a Glock 34 9mm semi-automatic pistol, an affidavit shows.
According to the affidavit, Lawson believed the gun was unloaded and “jokingly” pointed it at Walsh, pulling the trigger. The gun did not go off, so Lawson manipulated the slide back before pulling the trigger for a second time, the sheriff’s office said.
This time, a single shot was fired and struck Walsh in the head, killing him, the affidavit shows.
Lawson said “he still believed the firearm was unloaded but should have known the magazine containing ammunition was possibly in the firearm by the weight of the gun,” according to the affidavit.
[READ THE FULL AFFIDAVIT BELOW]
He 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.”
Todd Brown, a spokesperson with the State Attorney’s Office in Brevard County, released the following statement about the tragedy on Monday.
Today (Dec 5) we wish to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Deputy Austin Walsh, the men and women of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, and everyone who has been touched by this heartfelt tragedy.
In the weeks and months ahead, senior prosecutors will receive and carefully review the final investigative reports from the Palm Bay Police, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Brevard County Medical Examiner. While we understand concerns surrounding the incident and its possible disposition, those records cannot be made available by our office before a formal charging decision is made and criminal procedure requirements are met.
As the investigation continues and moves through the criminal justice process, our office will maintain its longstanding policy of not offering public comment on cases pending before the Court.State Attorney’s Office in Brevard County
In court Monday, Lawson’s surety bond was set at $15,000 permitted he relocate outside of Brevard County, move in with his mother and forfeit all possession of firearms. He potentially faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter.
His is scheduled to next appear in court for an arraignment in Viera on Jan. 5 at 8 a.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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