Air Force airman killed by Florida deputies who were at wrong apartment, attorney says

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Air Force airman killed by Florida deputies who were at wrong apartment, attorney says

An Air Force airman who was fatally shot at his Okaloosa County, Florida, apartment Friday was killed by a deputy after law enforcement burst into the wrong home, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Wednesday.

A woman said that she was on a FaceTime video call with Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, when he was killed and that he was alone and there was no disturbance, which law enforcement said was the reason for the call, Crump said.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said that Friday afternoon, “our deputy responded to a call of a disturbance in progress where he encountered an armed man,” and the deputy shot him.

According to the woman on the FaceTime call, whom Crump did not identify, Fortson heard a knock at his door, asked “Who is it?” got no response and could not see anyone through the peephole, Crump said in a statement.

military air force airman killed by Okaloosa Sheriff
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23.U.S. Air Force

There was a second, aggressive knock, Crump said, citing the woman’s account.

“Concerned, he did what any other law-abiding citizen would do and retrieved his legally-owned gun, but as he was walking back to the living room, police burst through the door. When they saw the gun, they shot Roger six times,” Crump said in the statement.

“The witness has said that she saw Roger on the ground stating, ‘I can’t breathe,’ after he was shot,” Crump said. “She has also said the police were in the wrong apartment as there was no disturbance in the apartment and he was alone.”

A sheriff’s spokesperson Friday night did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the claim that police were at the wrong apartment.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it is investigating the shooting at the request of the sheriff’s department. It did not provide any additional information, citing the active investigation.

The state attorney’s office is also conducting an independent review, the sheriff’s office said.

Sheriff Eric Aden said in a statement that “all of us at the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office are saddened about the fatal officer involved shooting over the weekend.”

“At this time, we humbly ask for our community’s patience as we work to understand the facts that resulted in this tragic event,” he said.

Hurlburt Field, the Air Force base where Fortson was assigned, said in a statement that Fortson entered active duty on Nov. 19, 2019. He was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron.

“The 1st Special Operations Wing’s priorities are providing casualty affairs service to the family, supporting the squadron during this tragic time, and ensuring resources are available for all who are impacted,” the base said.

Okaloosa County is in the Florida Panhandle, east of Pensacola.

Phil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

John Filippelli

Assignment editor

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