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Florida deputy killed after officer roommate 'jokingly' fires gun he thought was unloaded, officials say

Brevard County Sheriff’s Office deputy Austin Walsh was killed Saturday morning in what officials described as an off-duty "avoidable accident." His roommate, Andrew Lawson, was taken into custody Sunday, charged with manslaughter.
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A 23-year-old Florida sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot by his fellow deputy roommate over the weekend, in what the sheriff described as a “clearly dumb and avoidable accident.”

Brevard County Sheriff’s Office deputy Austin Walsh was killed Saturday morning in Palm Bay by his roommate Andrew Lawson, Sheriff Wayne Ivey said in a Sunday news conference

The two were taking a break from playing online games with friends and were standing and talking together when Lawson, who believed he had unloaded his gun, “jokingly” pointed the weapon at Walsh and pulled the trigger, Ivey said, citing the probe by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Palm Bay Police Department. 

A single bullet was fired, struck Walsh, and killed him, officials said. 

Austin Walsh
Austin Walsh.Brevard County Sheriff's Office

Lawson immediately called 911 saying he accidentally shot his roommate and needed help, Ivey said. When officers arrived, they found Lawson “fully distraught and devastated.”

They found Walsh inside the residence where he “apparently succumbed immediately” to a gunshot wound, Ivey said.

Ivey said the two men were “the best of friends” and Lawson is “completely devastated” over what happened. 

“Even with that, there is no excuse for this tragic and totally avoidable death," Ivey said.

Following the investigation, Lawson was taken into custody Sunday on a no-bond warrant on a manslaughter charge by the the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and transported to the Brevard County jail, Ivey said.  

It's not clear if Lawson has retained a lawyer. NBC News has reached out to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for comment.

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

The sheriff said talking about the fatal incident was "one of the toughest days of my career" as he loved both of the deputies and believed both to be "good kids."

Walsh had served with the agency since he was 18 and was part of its Explorers youth program before that, according to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.

“If nothing else, I pray there is a lesson learned from this tragedy,” Ivey said.