Air Force IDs airman fatally shot by Florida sheriff’s officer

by Vern Evans

The Air Force has identified a man shot and killed by a Florida sheriff’s deputy Friday as Senior Airman Roger Fortson.

Fortson, 23, was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, where he served as a gunner on the AC-130J Ghostrider.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said a deputy was responding to a call of a disturbance around 4:30 p.m. local time Friday when they encountered an armed individual at an apartment located at 319 Racetrack Road NW in Fort Walton Beach, just several miles from Hurlburt.

The deputy heard sounds of a disturbance and reacted in self defense after identifying himself as law enforcement, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Fortson was taken to a local hospital where he died. The deputy was placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation and administrative review.

An Okaloosa County Sheriff’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a phone message from Air Force Times Tuesday.

The Air Force said Monday that Fortson was at his off-base residence at the time of the incident. The 1st Special Operations Wing is providing casualty affairs service to his family and a spokesperson for the wing told Air Force Times that it sent a base-wide message out reminding them of the availability of mental health, chaplain, and other resources.

Fortson entered active duty on Nov. 19, 2019.

Okaloosa Sheriff’s Deputy Jesse Hernandez resigned in November after an officer-involved shooting, during which he mistook a falling acorn striking his patrol vehicle for a gun shot. According to an investigation, Hernandez opened fire on the vehicle, believing the shot came from inside, where a suspect in an alleged auto theft sat after being restrained and searched. The man, who is Black, was uninjured in the shooting. The sheriff’s office determined Hernandez’ use of force was not reasonable.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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