Body of US Airman Killed by Florida Deputy Being Flown Home by Air Force

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Body of US Airman Killed by Florida Deputy Being Flown Home by Air Force

The body of 23-year-old Senior US Airman Roger Fortson, who was fatally shot by a Florida sheriff’s deputy on May 3, will be returned to his family in Atlanta.

The Air Force is conducting a dignified transfer of Fortson’s body to his family and civil rights attorney Ben Crump at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Fortson was shot six times by a Florida sheriff’s deputy who allegedly responded to the wrong apartment for a disturbance call, according to Crump.

The sheriff’s office had released a different narrative of how the shooting unfolded, stating an Okaloosa deputy responded in self-defense after he encountered a man armed with a gun.

Okaloosa Sheriff Eric Aden called Crump’s claims that the deputy entered the wrong apartment false.

US Airman Roger Fortson dead Ben Crump
US Airman Roger Fortson was shot and killed by a Florida deputy. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing Fortson’s family and posted a photo on Instagram of the airman with his little sister who…

Instagram

How the deadly shooting unfolded

In the officer bodycam video released Thursday hours after the family hosted a press conference, the deputy is seen in the apartment complex on Racetrack Road asking, “What’s going on.”

He asked if a “fight is going on or something.” He meets with a woman who said fighting happens “frequently but this time it was sounding like it was getting out of hand.”

Someone had called her to complain.

When the officer asked what door, the woman said, “I’m not sure.” She later says apartment 1401 – which was Fortson’s apartment number.

Okaloosa Sheriff's Office
The Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office released bodycam footage from the May 3 officer-involved shooting that left US Airman Roger Fortson dead.

Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office

The officer knocks on the door, yells “Sheriff’s Office! Open the door!” and moves to the side. When Fortson opens the door, the deputy tells him to “step back” and immediately starts shooting and calling for Fortson to “drop the gun.”

As all of this is unfolding, Fortson was on Facetime with his girlfriend and alone in his off-base apartment, Crump said.

After a barrage of bullets, Fortson hits the ground and was eventually taken to a local hospital, where he died.

“In the four-and-a-half minute, heavily redacted video, it is very troubling that the deputy gave no verbal commands and shot multiple times within a split second of the door being opened, killing Roger,” Fortson’s family said in a statement. “Despite the redactions, the video has provided some answers, but it’s also raised even more troubling questions: As the officer didn’t tell Roger to drop the weapon before shooting, was the officer trained to give verbal warnings? Did the officer try to initiate life-saving measures? Was the officer trained to deal with law-abiding citizens who are registered gun owners?”

Aden said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will handle the criminal investigation required. However, no determination has been made as to whether the deputy’s actions were justified or not.

The deputy was placed on paid administrative leave, “pending the outcome of a formal investigation and administrative review,” according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not released the deputy’s name to Newsweek yet.

Who is Roger Fortson?

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., according to the Air Force. He entered active duty on Nov. 19, 2019.

Dozens wrote heartfelt messages on the Hurburt Field’s Facebook post about Fortson describing him as a “phenomenal human” who “always had a smile on his face.” One of his instructors, U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Curtis Lassiter called him a “very bright young man,” who was “one of the best students to go through training.”

“Roger was a very humble and mellow guy,” said his cousin, Keon Johnson. “He was always happy and smiling.”

Tributes have appeared at Fortson’s former apartment door. The small shrine includes flowers, candles, combat boots, an American flag, and a long wooden plank anchored by two sets of aviator wings and words of prayers and remembrances for Fortson.

“Senior Airman Fortson, from your fellow aviator,” one message reads. “Keep on flying! You are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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