Slain Airman’s Mother Lays Blame At Okaloosa Sheriff’s Feet

In Brief:

  • Chantemekki Fortson condemned Sheriff Eric Aden’s actions following her son Roger’s shooting death by former deputy Eddie Duran, calling for Aden’s resignation during an NAACP town hall.
  • Approximately 250 attendees heard updates on the investigation and engaged in discussions about racial bias and the influence of Christian Nationalism in the community.
  • Community members proposed an annual Roger Fortson Day to honor the young airman and keep racial bias issues at the forefront of local awareness.

Chantemekki Fortson didn’t mince words at the NAACP town hall concerning her son, Roger’s, shooting death at the hands of now former Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Eddie Duran. During the town hall, she made it clear Sheriff Aden’s words regarding her son’s death were not enough for her.

About 250 people gathered in the Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium on Miracle Strip Parkway in the middle of a warm, sunny Emerald Coast Summer day to hear from Roger’s family. Absolute silence haunted the auditorium as Chantemekki Fortson spoke for the first time. Hundreds of eyes focused with rapt attention as she talked about her son. The hardworking air conditioning system was the only sound besides her voice one could hear while she spoke.

Fortson says Aden’s cumulative actions to this point should not be enough for the voters of Okaloosa County either; “I think [Incumbent Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden] is going to have to leave,” Fortson said to applause from the crowd.

She cited a loss of confidence in the sheriff’s word for why she believed he needed to be replaced. “The sheriff looked me in my face and told me, ‘if I see anything wrong, I’m going to do something.’ [Sheriff Aden] fired him four days before [his last day, per his resignation letter].” Documents show former deputy Eddie Duran had turned in his resignation prior to the shooting. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office terminated Duran’s employment with the agency on May 31.

“What did you do?” she rhetorically asked Aden, who was not in attendance.”You did nothing. You made a fool of yourself.”

As Fortson continued to speak, her frustration concerning her son’s death built up. “All I asked [Sheriff Aden] at first was to apologize because he tried to say my child was a thug,” she added, “all I ask you guys [is to] make him take accountability.”

As the town hall progressed, Fortson placed the blame for the shooting not at Former Deputy Duran’s feet but at Aden’s. “It’s just gonna be a matter of time before he sacrifices [other people in the community.]. Eddie Duran was sacrificed,” she said about former deputy Duran to the crowd, “[Duran] went along to get along, and when the pressure got high, [Duran] got dropped.”

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

Update on the Criminal Investigation of Deputy Duran from the NAACP

As the town hall drew to a close, NAACP Chairman and donor to the Eric Aden re-election campaign Sabu Williams updated those gathered about the status of the state’s department of law enforcement’s investigation.

According to Williams, the investigation was supposed to wrap up some time during the first week of. July. However, he added, due to the Independence Day holidaythe FDLE says the investigation will likely conclude the week after.

“There was one last thing that they needed to do,” Williams noted from his conversation with FDLE’s director in Pensacola – Chris Williams. “Let me just say this, Sabu Williams added, “The conclusion of the investigation doesn’t mean that charges will be brought at that time. Because FDLE does not bring charges, they only do an investigation. So, our pressure at that point will be on the state attorney’s office. The state attorney’s office is the only office at this point that can bring the charges. That’s where we will have our eyes and ears at.”

A Roger Fortson Day and a Warning About Christian Nationalism

Okaloosa County residents offered their condolences to the family but also shared ideas and warnings for each other. One man in the crowd suggested holding a Roger Fortson day annually to remember the young airman and keep the problem of racial bias at the forefront of the community’s mind.

Another man, Pastor Clint Akins, warned the gathered crowd about the dangers of a particular ideology he believes may have caused this shooting. “I went to work 24 years in Africa with African Churches and leaders. I came back to Fort Walton Beach in 2005 to take care of my father, and I thought that [racism] was over. I thought [racism] was finished here in America. I think it’s worse [now]. And, our institutions here have, I think, an even greater challenge than before.” Pastor Akins added that he believes a new ideology, Christian Nationalism, is the source of the problem.

Christian Nationalists, who don’t necessarily define themselves by that label, believe “Christianity should enjoy a privileged position in the public square,” according to Christianity Today [CT]. CT adds “Christian nationalism is an ideology held overwhelmingly by white Americans, and it thus tends to exacerbate racial and ethnic cleavages.”

Akins believes the ideology threatens both the country and the faith he’s served for more than four decades. “It’s subtle how it affects people. So, Google Christian Nationalism; that is the enemy today,” he concluded.

Who attended the town hall about Roger Fortson in Fort Walton Beach?

The NAACP hosted the town hall, which had a mostly African-American audience. Members of the faith community, including several pastors, the Greek Letter Fraternities and Sororities, and other civic groups, wore their badges in the audience.

Several candidates also sat in their seats and listened to the Fortson family and community members speak. None spoke. Among their number were Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office Candidate Edward “Eddie” Perillo and County Commissioner District Three Candidates Keri Pitzer and Sherri Cox.

Candidate for District One County Commissioner De’Carlo Garcia was also in attendance. 

Download our app to stay in the know about niceville

Support local news. get cool stuff.

We’ve never needed local news more than we have today. With newspapers going out of business and fewer reporters around to watchdog local government, cover events or sports, and make sure you know what’s going on in your community


Donate today to keep local, independent and accountable journalism in your community today


Plus, we’ll give you some cool swag when you make your donation monthly

Keep Up With Niceville News

Stop scrolling social media to find out what’s going on in Niceville. Sign up for our weekly newsletter for the info impacting your daily life!

Boat on a Bayou