Deputies Who Fatally Shot U.S. Airman Roger Fortson Burst Into Wrong Apartment, Attorney Says

The attorney representing the family of the Black U

Published Time: 09.05.2024 - 07:31:17 Modified Time: 09.05.2024 - 07:31:17

The attorney representing the family of the Black U.S. Air Force airman who was killed by Florida deputies said the authorities burst into the wrong apartment when they fatally shot him,reports the Associated Press, Newsweek and NBC News.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, who was based at Hurlburt Field, was fatally shot on May 3 at his off-base apartment in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. An Air Force spokesperson told Task and Purpose he was a Special Missions Aviator assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron's AC-130J gunships.

"We demand accountability for those responsible for his death," civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Fortson’s family, said in a statement on Wednesday, May 8.

Crump is a prominent civil rights trial lawyer in the U.S. and has represented the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor, as well as the residents of Flint, Mich.

Crump said in a statement that Fortson was on a Facetime call with a woman at the time of the deadly incident. The woman, who has not been publicly identified, said that Fortson was alone in his apartment when he heard a knock at his door, according to Crump.

Crump added that per the woman's account, Forston asked who was knocking but got no response. A few minutes later, he heard a louder knock and checked the people, but didn't see anyone.

She then said the victim grew concerned and retrieved his gun — which Crump said Fortson legally owned.

Once he walked from the door to his living room, the deputies burst through the door and saw he was armed and shot him six times, said Crump. Fortson fell -

to the ground and said, “I can’t breathe,” the woman said, per Crump. 

He then died at a hospital, per Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden in a Tuesday, May 7 press release. Additionally, the deputy who shot Fortson was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Crump said the woman reports that Fortson wasn’t causing a disturbance and as a result believes that the deputies had the wrong apartment.

“The circumstances surrounding Roger’s death raise serious questions that demand immediate answers from authorities, especially considering the alarming witness statement that the police entered the wrong apartment,” Crump said in his statement.

“We are calling for transparency in the investigation into Roger’s death and the immediate release of body cam video to the family,” Crump said. “His family and the public deserve to know what occurred in the moments leading up to this tragedy.”

In the May 7 statement, Sheriff Aden also asked for the “community’s patience as they work to understand the facts that resulted in this tragic event.” He confirmed that the deputies responded to a call of a disturbance on May 3 and reacted in self-defense after encountering an armed man.

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Representatives for Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and Crump did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for more information on Wednesday.

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