Lawyer for airman’s family says video shows deputy went to wrong home

by Vern Evans

STONECREST, Ga. — A lawyer for the family of Roger Fortson said Thursday that the bodycam footage of the Florida sheriff’s deputy who killed the Black U.S. Air Force airman and police radio traffic from right after the shooting reinforce their assertion that the deputy was directed to the wrong apartment while responding to a domestic disturbance call that day.

In police radio traffic that lawyer Ben Crump played at a news conference surrounded by Fortson’s family, a dispatcher says all they know about the location of the disturbance is “fourth-party information.”

“Uh, don’t have any further other than a male and female,” the dispatcher tells officers. “It’s all fourth-party information from the front desk at the leasing office.”

Crump also highlighted two portions of the bodycam video in which the deputy asks the woman leading him around the complex, “Which door?” The woman responds, “Um… I’m not sure.” Seconds later, the woman tells the officer that she heard a disturbance two weeks ago, but “I wasn’t sure where it came from.”

Fortson, 23, was shot May 3 by an Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputy in the doorway of his apartment. Sheriff’s officials say the deputy acted in self-defense while responding to a call of a disturbance in progress at the apartment complex. Crump and Fortson’s family contend that the deputy went to the wrong unit and the shooting was unjustified.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating and the deputy involved has been placed on administrative leave. Nearly two weeks after the shooting, the sheriff has yet to release an incident report, any 911 records or the officer’s identity, despite requests for the information under Florida’s open records act.

At the news conference, Fortson’s mother, Meka Fortson, said she doesn’t remember her son even killing a spider, and that he didn’t deserve to be killed.

“I’ll walk through the fires” to get justice, she said.

Her message to the Sheriff Eric Aden: “You’re going to give me justice whether you want to, Sheriff Aden, or not,” she said.

A shrine of sorts has sprung up outside Fortson’s apartment, where people have left combat boots, bouquets of flowers and an American flag, among other things.

The news conference was held at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Stonecrest. It would be followed by a wake in nearby Decatur. Fortson’s funeral will be held at New Birth on Friday.

Bodycam video of the confrontation shows the deputy arriving at a Fort Walton Beach apartment building and speaking to a woman outside who described hearing an argument. The deputy then went up an elevator and walked down an outdoor hallway.

The video shows the deputy banging on the door and stepping aside, seemingly out of view of the door. Twice he shouted: “Sheriff’s office! Open the door!”

Fortson, who legally owned a firearm, opened the door and could be seen holding what appeared to be a handgun pointed down toward the floor. The deputy shouted, “Step back!” and then shot Fortson six times. Only afterward did he shout, “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!”

The deputy then called paramedics on his radio. The case is among many around the country in which Black people have been shot in their homes by law enforcement personnel.

Crump said earlier that Fortson was talking to his girlfriend on FaceTime and that he grabbed his gun because he heard someone outside his apartment. He said that the deputy burst into the apartment, citing the account of the girlfriend, who has not yet been identified.

In a clip from the FaceTime video captured by Fortson’s cellphone, the airman can be heard groaning and saying, “I can’t breathe.” A deputy can be heard yelling back at him, “Stop moving!” The phone is pointed at the ceiling and does not show what is going on in the apartment.

Fortson, a senior airman, was stationed at Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He was a gunner aboard the AC-130J and earned an Air Medal with combat device, which is typically awarded after 20 flights in a combat zone or for conspicuous valor or achievement on a single mission.

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron as a special missions aviator, where one of his roles was to load the gunship’s 30mm and 105mm cannons.

His family has said he doted on his 10-year-old sister and was determined to provide a better life for her and his mother, hoping eventually to buy her a house.

Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida.

Read the full article here

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy