Florida sheriff’s deputy charged in accidental off-duty shooting that killed fellow deputy, department says

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said the two deputies, Andrew Lawson and Austin Walsh, were roommates and best friends

A Florida sheriff’s deputy has been charged with manslaughter in the accidental shooting of his roommate, a fellow deputy, in their apartment Saturday, the department announced. 

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey announced the charges against 23-year-old Deputy Andrew Lawson. In a video posted on Facebook, Ivey called the shooting "an extremely dumb and totally avoidable accident." 

Brevard County Sheriff's deputy Austin Walsh. 

Brevard County Sheriff's deputy Austin Walsh.  (Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Florida)

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 an 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.

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Lawson immediately called 911 and was "distraught" and "devastated" when first responders arrived, Ivey said. Lawson cooperated fully with the investigation.

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.

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Sheriff Ivey said Walsh had been with the department since he was 18 and described him as a "treasured member of our BCSO Family." 

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.

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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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The Palm Bay Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the incident.   

The Associated Press contributed to this report.