Pinellas deputy fired over Snapchat posts

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Image via PCSO

A post on Snapchat got a Pinellas County patrol deputy fired.  The message, sent by 23-year-old Austen Callus read: "Nothing like almost shooting someone to set your head right lol. God I [hate] people with knives."

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he's never seen anything like it -- a deputy joking about shooting someone.

"You don't need to be carrying a gun and a badge if you're gonna make comments like that," Gualtieri said.

Sunday, Callus was sent to a "family trouble" incident in Dunedin. According to dispatch, one person was armed with a knife. But on the scene, Gualtieri said there was no weapon; the situation was handled. Later that day, Callus posted the message on Snapchat.

"There's a couple things in there that are very troubling, not the least of which is the 'lol' or laughing out loud, at the end. That, to me, is telling," the sheriff said.

Outrage grew on social media as the photo circulated, some asking, "this is the kind of cop Pinellas County Sheriff's Office hires?"

"That's not what we are about, that's not what we do," Gualtieri said.

Wednesday, Callus was put on administrative leave. Thursday, he was terminated.

"He never offered any explanation to alleviate or mitigate the concerns that I have," Gualtieri continued.

In fact, Gualtieri said, Callus even tried getting legal advice on what recourse he might have against the person who reported his Snap. That person noted that Callus had recently broken up with his girlfriend.

"He was posting other things; in uniform, in his cruiser," Gualtieri said. "He'd been drinking a lot."

Callus was hired in November as a probationary member of the department. He'd only been out of the field training program for a few weeks. Gualtieri said it wasn't Snapchat that ended his career so soon.

"This has nothing to do with social media," Gualtieri added. "This has to do with a statement that he made to someone else that is very concerning. Reprehensible. And, it shows that state of mind of someone who shouldn't be a law enforcement officer."

We tried contacting Callus for his side, but were unable to reach him.

Since he was only a probationary deputy, Gualtieri said that is why the firing happened so quickly and there wasn't a longer, formal disciplinary process that permanent employees get. But, given the situation, he said that likely wouldn't have made a difference in the outcome.