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How Did Dante Austin Die? New Details On The Tragic Death Of The Philly LBGTQ Activist

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How Did Dante Austin Die? New Details On The Tragic Death Of The Philly LBGTQ Activist

In communities all over the country, people are reevaluating their relationships with their local police. The purpose of the police is to assert law and to keep the order, police officers should make you feel safe. Unfortunately, for minorities and members of the LGBTQ community, there is more fear associated with the long arm of the law than there is a trust that the cops will protect them. That's what made Dante Austin stand out from the pack. An openly gay sheriff's deputy, Dante was a role model and an activist. That's why when he was found dead at his desk last week it sent shockwaves throughout the community. Here's what we know about the man, the details surrounding his death, and how it will affect the community going forward. How did Dante Austin die?

1. Found Dead

Dante Austin, 27, was a deputy for the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office. He was also the LGBTQ community liaison for the office. Tragically, he was discovered, dead, at his desk in the Sheriff's office on Friday June 10th. Currently, authorities think that Dante died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but the Medical Examiner's Ofiice needs to confirm that. 

Whether or not the gunshot wound was self-inflicted, the fact remains that Dante is no more and he has left behind a family and an entire city who will feel his loss keenly. Sheriff Jewell Williams said Dante's death is:  “a tragedy for the Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Austin’s family and the local LGBTQ community.” When you hear about his contributions, you'll understand why. 

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2. First Gay Deputy Sheriff 

Dante Austin's career was an important and impressive one, and not just for the man himself. In 2013 Dante officially joined the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office, where he was hired as the first openly gay depty sheriff, a true milestone for the community. In 2017 he was promoted to become the Office's LGBTQ community liaison.

“Dante was a person who believed in and cared about everybody,” said his former boss, Sheriff Williams. “He had the highest score on the Deputy Sheriff’s exam when he was hired in November 2013. He was our first openly gay deputy sheriff and we promoted him to become our first LGBTQ community liaison in May 2017.” In fact, Dante, an Army vet, was going to be promoted again, this time to sergeant, on July 1st of this year. 

3. LGBTQ Work

In addtion to all of the work Dante Austin did for his community within the Sheriff's Office, he was equally busy supporting the LGBTQ community when he was off the job, too. He worked closely with Michael Grossberg of the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, a group that helps LGBTQ nonprofits get the funding they need. Working with them, his impact was felt tremendously.  Being gay and being black is not an easy thing, and having Dante as a role model was important to the community at large, a sentiment that Grossberg supported in his comments following Dante's death.“I think the LGBT community in Philadelphia has struggled with issues of race and issues of equality and having leaders like Dante in our community was really fundamental,” Grossberg said.

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4. Not A Statistic 

For Dante to die during the month of June, gay pride month, is a particularly challenging pill to swallow. But the community will not wallow in sorrow. “We are looking to have a pride weekend that would be an honor to his great legacy,” Chris Bartlett of The William Way LGBT Community said following the news of Dante's death. 

The center itself will be open to give assistance to those who may need it following the news of Austin's death.  For those in the area, peer to peer suport will be provided at 1315 Spruce St., from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. “It will be an informal gathering with no agenda or program, but it will be an opportunity to be amongst friends, seek support, and begin to imagine how we will process this deep loss in a fitting way,” the center said.

5. The Mayor's Statement

Dante Austin was such an important figure in the Philadelphia queer community and his loss will be felt keenly. But he wasn't just lauded and respected by his fellow LGBTQ community members, he was also well-liked and well-respected by people outside that scope. Even the Mayor had a statement to issue which read as follows:

“Dante worked tirelessly, always, to lift up the most marginalized among us, to secure safety and protection for the most vulnerable, and to serve his community with unparalleled dedication and a warmth and generosity that moved so many of us. Dante’s legacy is one of boldness, bravery, compassion, and an unfailing commitment to a kinder and more just world for all. As we move forward in mourning and honoring our friend and colleague, may we cherish and celebrate the ways he changed us, improved our city, and protected and saved lives."

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime.