Family of US airman killed by Florida deputy demanding release of body-cam video

By Thomson Reuters May 9, 2024 | 10:47 AM

(Reuters) – A Florida sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a Black airman over the weekend may have entered the wrong apartment in respond to a disturbance call, according to a civil rights attorney who is demanding release of body-camera video showing the shooting.

The shooting occurred on the afternoon of May 3, when a deputy with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office went to an apartment complex in response to a disturbance call, Sheriff Eric Aden said in a statement.

Once at the complex, the deputy entered the apartment of Roger Fortson and opened fire, shooting the 23-year-old senior Air Force airman six times, according to attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Fortson’s family.

The sheriff said the deputy heard sounds of a disturbance and reacted in self defense after he encountered the 23-year-old. The sheriff did not name Fortson in his statement.

The deputy, who has not been identified, was placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, the sheriff said. He did not specify who was conducting the investigation.

The killing is reminiscent of an unannounced police raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020 when police burst into the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a Black 26-year-old emergency medical technician, killing her. Under questionable pretenses, police had obtained a “no knock” warrant to raid the apartment.

Taylor’s death, along with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police weeks later, set off a worldwide wave of protests against racism in law enforcement in the summer of 2020.

Before the shooting, Crump said, Fortson was on a FaceTime call when he heard a knock on his door. He asked, “who is it?” but didn’t get a response, according to Crump’s statement.

“A few minutes later, there was a very aggressive knock on the door, but Roger didn’t see anyone when he looked out the peephole,” Crump said.

Fortson then retrieved his gun and was walking back into his living room when the deputies burst through the door and opened fire, Crump said. Fortson was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries.

According to the person who was on the call with Fortson, police were in the wrong apartment as there was no disturbance in the apartment and he was alone, Crump said. The statement did not identify the person on the call.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Alistair Bell)