Bodycam, Facetime Videos Allegedly Reveal What Happened When Okaloosa Deputy Shot and Killed Hurlburt Airman

Bodycam, Facetime Videos Allegedly Reveal What Happened When Okaloosa Deputy Shot and Killed Hurlburt Airman

The body camera footage delivered by Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden showed Senior Airman Roger Fortson answering the door with a pistol pointed at the ground, followed by the deputy shooting him multiple times. Fortson's family, represented by attorney Ben Crump, also released video they say Fortson's girlfriend filmed immediately after the incident.

In Brief:

    • Body camera footage reveals the fatal encounter between Senior Airman Roger Fortson and an Okaloosa County Deputy.
    • Fortson’s family, represented by attorney Ben Crump, criticizes the sheriff’s office’s handling of the incident, calling for transparency and accountability.
    • The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, with the deputy involved on administrative leave pending further proceedings.

The gun was pointed at the ground. 


Body camera footage that  Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden delivered to a press gaggle of about 20 Thursday afternoon showed Senior Airman Roger Fortson answer the door to his apartment with a pistol in his right hand pointed at the ground. 


The four-and-a-half-minute-long video showed an unnamed deputy draw his gun and shoot Fortson several times.


The body camera footage is below if you want to see it – it’s partially redacted and blurred but is still intensely graphic of the moment the deputy killed Fortson at his apartment 


The Okaloosa County Sheriff deputy, who has remained unnamed, responded to a complaint about an argument at the apartment in unincorporated Fort Walton Beach where the killing took place.


The deputy went to the apartment door by himself and knocked twice. He announced himself loudly before the door was opened, and the shooting occurred. 


Immediately after the shots were fired, the deputy commanded Fortson, now on the ground writhing in pain, to get away from the gun. 


The deputy then called on his radio for EMS, and the video ended. 


Just as quickly as the video ended – Sheriff Aden, who is up for reelection this August but does not have an opponent, announced the end of the press conference and walked away from the dais where he had spoken.


A reporter attempted to ask follow-up questions, saying, “That’s your entire message?”


Aden responded, “That’s it, sorry,” and walked through the door away from the assembled press. 


It was the last press event of the day regarding what happened on May 3 to Fortson, who was stationed at Hurlburt Field at the time of his death as a special operations aviator. 


Both the sheriff, who showed the video at the end of his press conference before leaving the assembled reporters, and the family and attorneys for Fortson held a briefing at 10:30 AM to address the media and what they considered slanders on the dead servicemen’s memory.

The Facetime Video

After the release of the body camera footage to the media – the Fortson legal team released this statement:


“In the four-and-a-half minute, heavily redacted video, 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. Despite the redactions, the video has provided some answers, but it’s also raised even more troubling questions: As the officer didn’t tell Roger to drop the weapon before shooting, was the officer trained to give verbal warnings? Did the officer try to initiate life-saving measures? Was the officer trained to deal with law-abiding citizens who are registered gun owners? 


“The girlfriend acknowledges that even though she initially thought the door was forced open by the police that she stands by her emotional recollection of what happened. To provide transparency into what happened during the Facetime video with Roger, his girlfriend and her attorney have instructed us that we can release a portion of the Facetime video that was recorded at the time of this tragedy.


“We remain adamant that the police had the wrong apartment 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.” 


The girlfriend will be holding a press conference in the near future so the media can hear from her directly, with details forthcoming.”


In the facetime video – you can see very little – but hear a lot. The video appears to begin recording in the same room where Fortson was shot – but there is no way to verify facts independently from the video other than the following:


You can hear a man shout that he can’t breathe. 


You can hear multiple men’s voices discussing medical care for someone. 


You can hear one man say “Yeah, he’s shot up.”


You can hear the beeps and whistles of equipment. 

a woman at a press conference.
Meka Fortson, the mother of Senior Airman Roger Fortson, speaks with a portrait of her son in her hands at a press conference following the death of her son.

“Clean my baby’s reputation, please clean my baby’s reputation.”


Meka Fortson wept as she held a large portrait of her third son, Roger. She attacked the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office for their handling of the incident and their statements afterward. 


“Don’t put a stain on the name of this young man,” Fortson said as she fought back tears.


Roger wanted to show a 16-year-old brother that there was more to life than gangsta rap, killing people, stealing, and making a fool of himself,” Fortson said, “Roger wanted to show his momma, who raised five kids – who didn’t know what credit was – how to have something. Roger wanted to show us how to love unconditionally.”


The family has a team of attorneys to represent them in what looks like an imminent civil lawsuit against the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. 


Ben Crump, a Tallahassee-based civil rights attorney who was been involved with several high-profile cases involving police killings of young black men, was at the side of the grieving mother and her family – and spoke for her through the majority of the press conference. 


“Roger Fortson was the best that America had to offer. He was a patriot,” Crump said. He talked about how Fortson had wanted to join the Air Force since he was four and how proud he was of making it to the point where he could serve. 


“This truly is about the constitution,” Crump said, “In the state of Florida, we encourage gun ownership. We have a right to the Second Amendment; we wear it proudly here in the State of Florida. And when you think about the people that we want to have guns in America – he is exhibit A.”


With Crump was attorney Brian Barr of Pensacola law firm Levin Papantonio-Rafferty. Barr chastised the media for their lack of initial coverage on the case, partially blaming the statement put out by the Sheriff’s Office. 


“We know humans aren’t perfect,” Barr said, “Good people make mistakes. But good people also own their mistakes. They don’t put out statements the day this happenedyou read that statement, go pick it up and read it. What does it make you think? It makes you think it happened outside. That this kid was in the middle of a disturbance and he did something. That he instigated this and lost his life. That’s what it makes it sound like. It sounded justified. “


At the end of the conference, a reporter asked Crump if the color of Forton’s skin had anything to do with the way the incident unfolded. Crump stood back from the podium, looked to the side, and put his hands out. 


“You know, that’s something America has to answer,” Crump said. 


As the press conference ended – Crump announced to the media and gathered supporters in the ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn on Okaloosa island that the family would head to the Okaloosa County sheriff’s Office station in Shalimar to view the body cam footage of the deputy involved in the shooting. 


An hour and ten minutes later, the family emerged from the substation in tears. 


One of the family members let up a cry to heaven “why can’t he just grow old?!  


They departed quickly as a sheriff’s office administrative assistant and the chaplain watched them leave.

Okaloosa Sheriff Eric Aden
Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden speaks at the press conference where he released the body camera video that shows the shooting of Hurlburt Field Airman Roger Fortson. Fortson was 23.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden Holds Press Conference on Shooting of Roger Fortson

Okaloosa County Sheriff Aden entered the room and stepped to the podium. He extended condolences to the Fortson family and told the media that the shooting was a “result [the sheriff’s office] never wants to encounter.” He added, “He was thinking about the deputy involved in the tragic event.”


The unnamed deputy is on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement – which investigates all shootings involving law enforcement. 


Aden noted that he held the press conference to assure the public and the Fortson family that “we are doing what we can to ensure the facts of the case are fully understood.”


He told the press, “It is important to note that, while this is a criminal investigation – no determination has been made as to whether the deputy’s actions were justified. Here in Okaloosa County, we pride ourselves on a commitment to transparency and accountability. These investigations take time, but I want to assure you that we are not hiding, covering up, or taking action that would result in a rush to judgment of Mr. Fortson or our deputy.”


What’s next?


Now, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement – the state agency that oversees policing will investigate the shooting and decide whether or not to move forward with pressing charges on the deputy who shot and killed Fortson. 


If they find enough evidence to bring the case forward, a grand jury will decide whether to formally indict the deputy


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