Girlfriend of Slain U.S. Airman Roger Fortson Releases FaceTime Video of Fatal Police Encounter

A Florida law enforcement officer shot a U

Published Time: 10.05.2024 - 23:31:15 Modified Time: 10.05.2024 - 23:31:15

A Florida law enforcement officer shot a U.S. airman multiple times inside his apartment, according to the officer's body camera footage.

Now, in the recorded FaceTime call between the victim, Roger Fortson, and his girlfriend — a portion of which was obtained to PEOPLE — the 23-year-old Black man can be heard gasping for air. 

In the background, first-responders say he was shot six times, three times in the chest.

The Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputy, who has not been publicly named, knocked at the senior airman’s off-base apartment in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., on Friday, May 3, in response “to a call of a disturbance in progress,” Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said in a statement.

In partially blurred and muted body camera footage obtained by and reviewed by PEOPLE, the deputy does not appear to identify himself when he first knocks.

He then moves away from the door, seemingly out of sight. (A man’s voice inside the apartment is inaudible except for the word “police.”)

The deputy knocks twice more, each time with the command: “Sheriff’s office, open the door!”

Opening the door, Fortson holds to his side what appears to be a gun, pointed at the ground.

“Step back,” the officer commands, quickly firing multiple rounds.

Fortson falls backward. 

With the airman on the ground, the officer then commands: “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!”

“It’s over there!” Fortson responds. 

“Drop the gun!” the officer repeats. 

“I don’t have it!” Fortson says.

Speaking into his radio, the deputy reports: “312, shots fired, suspect down.”

Fortson rolls onto his side.

“Do not move!” the office orders.

The body camera footage ends with the officer requesting EMS.

The recorded FaceTime call – provided to PEOPLE through civil rights lawyer Ben Crump who represents Fortson’s family – picks up after Fortson is shot. 

Groaning, Fortson cries: “I can’t breathe!” 

His camera is aimed at the ceiling fan.

“Do not move! Stop moving!” the officer shouts.

Fortson died at the hospital. 

Sheriff Aden said in a Tuesday, May 7 statement that his deputy “encountered an armed man” and “the deputy shot the man.”

The deputy is on administrative leave. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office are investigating the shooting.

“At this time, we humbly ask for our commun -

ity’s patience as we work to understand the facts that resulted in this tragic event,” Aden added.

Minutes before the shooting, the officer – who in body camera footage appears to be unaccompanied – discusses with two people at the apartment building an alleged argument between a man and a woman, leading up to the call. 

One of them directs the officer to apartment 1401.

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In a set of press releases issued by Crump, Fortson’s family claims “the police had the wrong apartment,” and there was “no disturbance” there “as Roger was on the phone with his girlfriend for a substantial amount of time leading up to the shooting, and no one else was in the apartment.” 

Fortson – who enlisted in the military after graduating high school and was an active-duty special operations serviceman who had just returned from Kuwait and had no criminal record – was home alone, his family says, when he heard “a very aggressive knock on the door.”

Seeing no one through his peep hole, they claim he asked “Who is it?”

Receiving no response, they say he then retrieved his legally-owned gun. 

In a statement to PEOPLE from his family after law enforcement released the body camera footage, the family said it was “very troubling” that the deputy fired “multiple times within a split second of the door being opened” without first giving verbal commands for Fortson to drop his weapon.

The footage, they said has: “raised even more troubling questions.”

In a statement ed to PEOPLE, Crump said, "It is a harrowing tragedy that Roger dedicated his life to serving his country and defending our constitutional rights and in the end, his constitutional rights were violated, leading to his death."

The statement added, “The second amendment afforded Roger the right to own a gun and yield it as protection when he was unsure who was on the other side of his door. It is clear that this officer needs to be investigated and held accountable for the execution of Roger. We will not rest until there is justice for Roger and his family."

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