Family of Airman Allegedly Killed By Okaloosa Sheriff’s Deputy Hires Civil Rights Attorney

Senior Airman Roger Fortson's tragic death has sparked controversy and demands for transparency as his family seeks answers regarding the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting allegedly committed by an on-duty Okaloosa County Sheriff's Deputy. The family has enlisted the help of prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, known for his work in high-profile cases involving police accountability.

In Brief:

  • Senior Airman Roger Fortson was fatally shot by an Okaloosa County Deputy, leading to demands for transparency and justice from his family.
  • Fortson’s family has hired prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is known for his work in cases involving police accountability, to represent them.
  • A news release from Crump’s office claims Fortson was alone in his apartment and not posing a threat when he was shot.

This story continues to develop. As we get more information, we will share it here. 

Information has come out from the side of the Hurlburt Airman who was shot and killed by an Okaloosa County Deputy on May 3. 

The family of airman Roger Fortson hired Ben Crump, a prominent civil rights attorney who has represented the families of Jamal Sutherland, Henrietta Lacks, George Floyd, and others who have won civil cases against the government and law enforcement agencies. 

Crump held the Minneapolis Police Department accountable for the actions of police officer Derek Chauvin. He would succeed in winning a $27 Million settlement against the department that hired the man who killed Floyd and started nationwide protests. 

A news release from Crump’s office claims Fortner was on a Facetime call with a witness at the time an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy allegedly shot him. “Roger was alone in his apartment when he heard a knock at the door,” the release said, “He asked, ‘Who is it?‘ but didn’t get a response. 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. Concerned, he did what any other law-abiding citizen would do and retrieved his legally owned gun, but as he was walking back to the living room, police burst through the door. When they saw the gun, they shot Roger six times. The witness has said that she saw Roger on the ground stating, “can’t breathe,” after he was shot. She has also said the police were in the wrong apartment as there was no disturbance in the apartment and he was alone

He was later taken to the hospital where he died. Few details have been provided by law enforcement.”

In the same release, Crump said 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. The narrative released by law enforcement, which falsely suggests that Roger posed a threat, is deeply troubling and inconsistent with the details provided by that witness: Roger was home alone, causing no disturbance, when his life was tragically cut short by law enforcement.

“We are calling for transparency in the investigation into Roger’s death and the immediate release of body cam video to the family. His family and the public deserve to know what occurred in the moments leading up to this tragedy. We urge authorities to immediately stop demonizing Roger in their statements to the mediaIt’s imperative to correct the record and acknowledge the wrongful entry into Roger’s home. What we know for sure is that Roger was a dedicated U.S. Airman serving the country and a cherished member of his community. Any attempts to tarnish his character only compound the pain felt by his loved ones.

“We demand justice for Roger Fortson. We demand accountability for those responsible for his death. And we stand in solidarity with Roger’s family and friends as they navigate this unimaginable loss.”

The Crump team will host a press conference at the Hilton Garden Inn-Fort Walton Beach Ballroom. Fortson’s family, Crump, and Levin-Papantonio Rafferty attorney Brian Barr will attend. 

More About Roger Fortson, The Airman Fatally Shot By An Okaloosa County Deputy May 3

Senior Airman Roger Fortson served at Hurlburt Field, Florida, and lived at an apartment complex in unincorporated Fort Walton Beach. Crump’s release says that the airman “enlisted in the military after graduating from high school with honors and had no criminal record. By all accounts, he was a stellar member of the Air Force and loved by his community.”

Response from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office

At 2:44 PM on May 8, Sheriff Eric Aden’s Office released this statement on social media:

“All of us at the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office are saddened about the fatal officer-involved shooting over the weekend. 

Late Friday afternoon, our deputy responded to a call of a disturbance in progress where he encountered an armed man. The deputy shot the man, who later succumbed to his injuries.

I immediately placed the deputy on administrative leave and have asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to conduct the investigation that is required in such incidents. 

The State Attorney’s Office will also conduct an independent review. 

At this time, we humbly ask for our community’s patience as we work to understand the facts that resulted in this tragic event. 

Sheriff Eric Aden

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office”

Hurlburt Field Response

Hurlburt Field also released a statement in the wake of the shooting. They posted: 

“U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, died Friday, May 3, following an incident at his off-base residence.  

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron. He entered active duty on Nov. 19, 2019. 

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is the lead investigation agency in this incident. To protect the integrity of the investigationno other information will be released at this time. 

The 1st Special Operations Wing’s priorities are providing casualty affairs service to the family, supporting the squadron during this tragic time, and ensuring resources are available for all who are impacted

For those impacted by this incident and in need of support, please reach out to your nearest available helping agency.”

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