Sheriff's Deputy Fired After Social Media Post: 'Nothing Like Almost Shooting Someone'
Austen Callus was three weeks out of the deputy field training program when he made comments that the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office found troubling.
A sheriff’s deputy in Florida has been fired after posting on social media about almost shooting someone, officials said.
Austen Callus, 23, was initially put on administrative leave from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office after a photo he posted to Snapchat, which included a caption about firing his weapon, made its way back to the department, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
“Nothing like almost shooting someone to set your head right lol,” Callus wrote on the picture of himself in a plain blue shirt. “God I gate [sic] people with knives.”
On Sunday, Callus was sent to a “family trouble” incident in Dunedin, where it had been reported that one person was armed with a knife.
But the reports of a knife-wielding person were unfounded and the situation was handled, Gualtieri said. Later that day, Callus reportedly posted the troublesome photo to Snapchat.
News of the photo left fellow social media users outraged and questioning who their local law enforcement had hired.
"That's not what we are about that's not what we do," Gaultieri said.
The sheriff’s office received a complaint about the photo Tuesday, placed Callus on administrative leave Wednesday and ultimately terminated him Thursday, Gualtieri said.
“When somebody makes that kind of a statement after going to a call and you see the quote is, ‘Nothing like almost shooting someone to set your head right lol.' You know, there’s a couple things in there that are very troubling, but not the least of which is the ‘lol’ or laughing out loud at the end,” he told reporters on Thursday. “That, to me, is telling. That’s an indicator."
Callus was a probationary deputy who was hired in November, which allowed for an expedited termination, but Gualtieri said he was let go only after a thorough, fair and objective investigation was completed.
Gualtieri said Callus’s termination was a result of several factors, but was primarily based on his inappropriate language on Snapchat, which the sheriff said pointed to a large issue.
“When you say something to the effect of, almost shooting somebody to make your head right, i.e. make you feel good, and then you’re laughing out loud about it, that’s a problem,” he said. “You don’t need to be a deputy sheriff, you don’t need to be a law enforcement officer; you don’t need to be out there protecting people when you’re making comments about shooting somebody to make you feel better.”
When his superiors questioned the post, Callus never tried to explain it, the sheriff said.
"He never offered any explanation to alleviate or mitigate the concerns that I have," Gaultieri said.
Gualtieri also said that Callus tried getting legal advice on what recourse might be available against the person who reported the photo, who had also told the sheriff’s department that Callus recently broke up with his girlfriend.
“There were some things that were problematic in his life, but as a deputy out of the field training program for three weeks — he’s only out there by himself for three weeks — to respond to a call... and have to make a decision about use of force, and then to make a comment that that in somehow is therapeutic and it’d make him feel better if he could shoot somebody,” Gualtieri said. “It’s obviously concerning and you don’t need to be carrying a gun and a badge if you make comments like that, and especially if you feel that way.
"This has nothing to do with social media," Gaultieri continued. "This has to do with a statement that he made to someone else that is very concerning [and] reprehensible. And, it shows that state of mind of someone who shouldn't be a law enforcement officer."
InsideEdition.com’s attempts to reach Callus for comment were unsuccessful.
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