Florida Sheriff Releases Body-Cam Footage of Deputy Fatally Shooting Black Airman in Apartment

Body-camera footage released by a Florida county sheriff shows a deputy fatally shooting Roger Fortson, a Black airman, in his apartment after he had a handgun at his side. The family, represented by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, asserts the deputy knocked on the wrong door.

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Florida Sheriff Releases Body-Camera Footage of Deputy Fatally Shooting Black Airman in Apartment

A tragic and controversial incident unfolded in Florida on May 3rd when an Okaloosa County sheriff's deputy fatally shot 23-year-old Roger Fortson, a Black airman, inside his apartment. The family of the deceased insists that the deputy knocked on the wrong door, while law enforcement officials maintain that proper procedures were followed.

According to the  body-camera footage released by the sheriff's office, the deputy, who was investigating a domestic violence complaint, can be heard announcing "sheriff's office, open the door" twice before Fortson opened the door with a handgun at his side, pointed downward. Within a split second, the deputy opened fire multiple times at close range, fatally wounding Fortson, who later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

The family's statement, released through civil rights attorney Ben Crump, expressed deep concern over the deputy's actions. "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," the statement read.

Crump, who represents the Fortson family, emphasized that Fortson was on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend leading up to the shooting, and no one else was present in the apartment. "We remain adamant that the police had the wrong apartment," the family's statement asserted.

Why It Matters: This tragic incident has reignited discussions about the use of force by law enforcement, particularly in interactions involving Black individuals. It raises critical questions about the split-second decision-making processes of officers in high-stress situations and the potential for implicit biases to influence their actions. The case also highlights the ongoing need for comprehensive training, accountability measures, and community-police relations initiatives to prevent such devastating occurrences.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden defended the deputy's actions, stating that the officer announced himself twice and that Fortson knew law enforcement was at the door when he answered with a gun in his hand. Aden also claimed that the deputy knocked on the correct door and did not obscure the peephole's view.

However, Crump presented a different account based on Fortson's girlfriend's recollection. According to Crump, Fortson asked, "Who is it?" but received no response, prompting him to retrieve his legally owned gun before approaching the door.

The FaceTime video released by Crump's office appears to capture Fortson moaning and saying, "I can't breathe" as he lay mortally wounded, with the deputy shouting orders to "stop moving."

Crump described Fortson as a patriot and a good young man who followed rules and respected authority, emphasizing his dream of becoming a pilot. "My baby was my everything," Fortson's mother tearfully said during the news conference, demanding full transparency from the sheriff's office and pleading, "Tell the truth about my son... please clean his reputation."

The incident has drawn comparisons to the unannounced police raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020, when police burst into the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician, killing her. Taylor's death, along with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police weeks later, sparked a worldwide wave of protests against racism in law enforcement.

As the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates and the State Attorney's Office conducts an independent review, the Fortson family and the broader community await answers and accountability in this tragic case that has once again shed light on the complex and often-strained relationship between law enforcement and marginalized communities.

Key takeaways

  • Black airman Roger Fortson fatally shot by Florida sheriff's deputy.
  • Body-cam footage shows deputy firing after Fortson opens door with gun.
  • Family insists deputy had wrong door; attorney Ben Crump expresses concern.
  • Incident renews debate on police use of force, implicit bias.
  • Sheriff defends deputy, claims correct door was knocked.