PINELLAS COUNTY — Pinellas County Deputy Austen Callus, 23, curtailed his law enforcement career in short order recently via a Snapchat joke about a near shooting after a mere 7 months on the force.
Callus posted a photo of himself in his car and captioned it: “Nothing like almost shooting someone to set your head right lol. God I gate (sic) people with knives.”
Callus was referring to a domestic violence call in which one of the parties had a knife.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri wasted little time responding, firing Callus on Thursday after becoming aware of the post.
“If you make that kind of statement … you’re not going to be employed here as a deputy sheriff because it calls into question your thoughts, your motives,” Gualtieri explained, “and certainly leaves the deputy and the agency in a very bad situation if something were to happen in the future.”
It’s a wise move by Gualtieri that displays a lot of forethought.
While the comment may seem flip and innocuous enough on the face of it, it could certainly prove good fodder to use against the officer if he was ever involved in a shooting incident, justified or not.
In that way, it’s also a potent reminder of the need to exercise care on social media. Indeed, scarcely a week goes by without headlines of someone putting their job in jeopardy with an ill-judged picture or tweet.
The post was first brought to the department’s attention by a former high school classmate of the deputy. What’s more, a friend of Callus told Gualtieri that Callus had been abusing alcohol after a break-up with his girlfriend. (Perhaps the most damning statement about Callus’s character is that even his own supposed friends are lining up to torpedo him.)
“So we can’t have somebody as a deputy who makes that kind of statement,” Gualtieri went on, “when he’s going through all this personal turmoil that’s going on.”
A firing, of course, is a stressful event; hopefully the former deputy will find a way to unwind that doesn’t involve shooting anyone.