Florida deputy who fatally shot U.S. airman fired after sheriff’s investigation

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Florida deputy who fatally shot U.S. airman fired after sheriff’s investigation

The Florida sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a U.S. Air Force airman while responding to a report of a disturbance has been fired, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

An internal investigation of the May 3 shooting found Deputy Eddie Duran’s use of deadly force that ended in the death of Senior Airman Roger Fortson was not reasonable, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

“The objective facts do not support the use of deadly force as an appropriate response to Mr. Fortson’s actions,” Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said in the office’s statement.

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

Duran could not be reached for comment Friday.

A. Keith Dean, executive director of the Florida Deputy Sheriffs Association, said by email the organization is representing Duran. The organization had no immediate comment.

Fortson, 23, was fatally shot when he opened the door of his apartment in Fort Walton Beach, about 40 miles east of Pensacola, after Duran knocked and announced the presence of law enforcement, the sheriff’s office said.

Duran was responding to a report of a disturbance in progress, and an employee of the complex directed him to the unit where Fortson lived, the office said.

A person described as a neighbor told a sheriff’s dispatcher at the time that they could hear what they believed to be an argument between a man and woman at the unit that sounded like it was getting physical, and that it wasn’t the first time loud arguing could be heard in the area of the apartment, according to the investigative report.

After knocking but not announcing who he was, Duran knocked twice more while each time announcing “sheriff’s office,” the office said.

Fortson opened the front door and the two faced each other, the office said. The airman had a gun at his side, pointed down, and did not aim it and did not resist the deputy before Duran opened fire, it said.

“Mr. Fortson did not commit any crime,” Aden said. “By all accounts, he was an exceptional airman and individual.”

Fortson died at a hospital.

At a May 9 news conference, Fortson’s family and their attorneys said he had been home alone and on a video call with his girlfriend before the shooting. They said he thought someone was trying to break in, and that they believe the deputy responded to the wrong apartment.

Earlier this month, the sheriff’s office released body camera footage of the incident. It shows Fortson answering the door of his off-base apartment and immediately being shot multiple times.

The sheriff’s office initially said in a statement after the shooting that Duran reacted in self defense.

But the internal investigation made it clear the office believes Duran violated agency policy.

It concluded, “Mr. Fortson did not make any hostile, attacking movements, and therefore, the former deputy’s use of deadly force was not objectively reasonable under OSCO’s policy,” the office said on Friday.

Fortson was based at Hurlburt Field Air Force base in Okaloosa County. His family has retained high-profile civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues to investigate the shooting.

Dennis Romero

Dennis Romero is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital. 

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