Air Force airman fatally shot when Florida deputies breached wrong apartment, attorney says

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Deputies responding to a disturbance telephone astatine a Florida flat analyzable burst into the incorrect portion and fatally changeable a Black U.S. Air Force airman who was location unsocial erstwhile they saw helium was equipped with a gun, an lawyer for the man’s household said Wednesday.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, who was based astatine the Special Operations Wing astatine Hurlburt Field, was successful his off-base flat successful Fort Walton Beach erstwhile the shooting happened connected May 3.

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said successful a connection that Fortson was connected a Facetime telephone with a pistillate astatine the clip of the encounter.

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According to Crump, the woman, whom Crump didn’t identify, said Fortson was unsocial successful his flat erstwhile helium heard a sound astatine the door. He asked who was determination but didn’t get a response. A fewer minutes later, Fortson heard a louder sound but didn’t spot anyone erstwhile helium looked done the peephole, Crump said, citing the woman’s account.

The pistillate said Fortson was acrophobic and went to retrieve his gun, which Crump said was legally owned.

As Fortson walked backmost done his surviving room, deputies burst done the door, saw that Fortson was equipped and changeable him six times, according to Crump’s statement. The pistillate said Fortson was connected the ground, saying, "I can’t breathe," aft helium was shot, Crump said.

Military representation    photograph  of Senior Airman Roger Fortson

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, seen present successful a Dec. 24, 2019, photo, was supporting the U.S. Air Force's Special Operations Wing astatine Hurlburt Field, Florida, erstwhile helium was changeable and killed successful his flat connected May 3, 2024, during an incidental involving the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office. (U.S. Air Force via AP)

Fortson died astatine a hospital, officials said. The lawman progressive successful the shooting was placed connected administrative permission pending an investigation.

The pistillate said Fortson wasn’t causing a disturbance during their Facetime telephone and believes that the deputies indispensable person had the incorrect apartment, Crump’s connection said.

"The circumstances surrounding Roger’s decease rise superior questions that request contiguous answers from authorities, particularly considering the alarming witnesser connection that the constabulary entered the incorrect apartment," Crump said.

"We are calling for transparency successful the probe into Roger’s decease and the contiguous merchandise of assemblage cam video to the family," Crump said. "His household and the nationalist merit to cognize what occurred successful the moments starring up to this tragedy."

Crump is simply a nationally known lawyer based successful Tallahassee, Florida. He has been progressive successful aggregate high-profile instrumentality enforcement shooting cases involving Black people, including those of Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Tyre Nichols and George Floyd.

Crump and Fortson's household program to talk astatine a quality league successful Fort Walton Beach connected Thursday morning.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office didn’t instantly respond to an email oregon voicemail from The Associated Press seeking remark astir Crump’s claims. But Sheriff Eric Aden posted a connection connected Facebook Wednesday day expressing sadness astir the shooting.

"At this time, we humbly inquire for our community’s patience arsenic we enactment to recognize the facts that resulted successful this tragic event," Aden said.

The sheriff’s bureau said successful a connection past week that a lawman responding to a telephone of a disturbance successful advancement astatine the flat analyzable reacted successful self-defense aft encountering an equipped man. The bureau did not connection details connected what benignant of disturbance deputies were responding to oregon who called them.

The sheriff's bureau besides declined to instantly place the responding deputies oregon their races. Officials said earlier this week that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the section State Attorney’s Office volition analyse the shooting.

FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told The Associated Press connected Wednesday that it is highly improbable the bureau volition person immoderate further remark until the probe is complete.

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron arsenic a peculiar missions aviator, wherever 1 of his roles arsenic a subordinate of the squadron's AC-130J Ghostrider aircrew was to load the gunship's 30mm and 105mm cannons during missions.

Fortson’s decease draws striking similarities to different Black radical killed successful caller years by constabulary successful their homes, successful circumstances that progressive officers responding to the incorrect code oregon responding to work calls with wanton uses of deadly force.

In 2018, a achromatic erstwhile Dallas police officer fatally changeable Botham Jean, an unarmed Black man, aft mistaking his flat for her own. Amber Guyger, the erstwhile officer, was recovered blameworthy of execution the pursuing twelvemonth and was sentenced to 10 years successful prison.

In 2019, a achromatic erstwhile Fort Worth, Texas, serviceman fatally changeable Atatiana Jefferson done a rear model of her location aft responding to a nonemergency telephone reporting that Jefferson’s beforehand doorway was open. Aaron Dean, the erstwhile officer, was recovered blameworthy of manslaughter successful 2022 and was sentenced to astir 12 years successful prison.

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Crump has represented families successful some cases arsenic portion of his ongoing effort to unit accountability for the killings of Black radical astatine the hands of police.

"What I’m trying to do, arsenic overmuch arsenic I can, adjacent sometimes singlehandedly, is summation the worth of Black life," Crump told The Associated Press successful 2021 pursuing the condemnation a erstwhile Minneapolis serviceman successful the execution of George Floyd.

Fort Walton Beach is betwixt Panama City Beach and Pensacola successful the Florida Panhandle.

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