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Senior Airman Roger Fortson enlisted in the US Air Force in November 2019
By Nadine Yousif
BBC News

Florida police have publicly released body camera footage from a deputy sheriff who fatally shot a US Air Force member at his home.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, who was 23 years old, was taken to a hospital where he died, officials said.

A lawyer for the victim’s family, citing a witness, alleged the police burst into the wrong home.

Police have disputed the claim and said the deputy reacted in self-defence after he saw Fortson armed with a gun.

The airman was shot on 3 May at his home, located 5 miles (8km) from the Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, where he is based.

The deputy who shot him – whom police have not named – has since been placed on administrative leave.

The incident is now being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office, Sheriff Aden added.

In a news conference on Thursday, Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden promised to provide “transparency and accountability”.

“These investigations take time,” he said.

“But I want to assure you that we are not hiding, covering up, or taking any action that would result in a rushed judgment of Mr Fortson or our deputy.”

The sheriff showed a four-minute video taken from the body camera worn by the deputy who fired the fatal shots.

The clip showed police arriving at Fortson’s apartment complex, and being led to an elevator by a witness who said she had heard fighting coming from an apartment.

The deputy then approached the front door alone, knocked, and twice called out that he was a member of the “sheriff’s office”.

Fortson was seen holding a gun in his right hand as he opened the door. The deputy then fired multiple shots as soon as the door opened, telling him afterwards to drop the weapon.

“It’s over there. I don’t have it,” Fortson said as he lay on the floor.

A lawyer for the Fortson family, Ben Crump, said in a news conference on Thursday that Fortson “was the best America had to offer”.

“He was a patriot. He was a US airman, special ops. He was fighting for our way of life. He was fighting for everybody,” Mr Crump said.

His mother, Chantimekki Fortson, broke down crying as Mr Crump recounted the moments before the airman was shot.

“My baby was my everything,” she said.

Mr Crump said at the time of the shooting Fortson was on a video call with a friend, who described what she heard to his family’s legal team.

The friend said the airman heard a knock on his apartment door and asked who was there, but received no response. He then heard a second, “very aggressive knock” but did not see anyone when he looked through the peephole.

It is at this point that Fortson is said to have grown concerned and retrieved his gun, which the lawyer said was legally owned.

As Fortson returned to his living room, the witness said police burst through the door, saw that the resident was armed and shot him six times.

Mr Crump said the witness believed the officers were in the wrong apartment, as Fortson was alone at the time with no disturbance at his residence.

The sheriff on Thursday denied that officers had gone to the wrong address.

In an earlier statement, the sheriff’s office said the deputy “reacted in self defence after he encountered a 23-year-old man armed with a gun and after the deputy had identified himself as law enforcement.”

Speaking to reporters, Mr Crump accused police of trying to “justify unjustifiable excessive use of force.”

Mr Crump noted that private gun ownership is allowed in Florida.

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron, according to the US Air Force, and entered active duty in November 2019.

According to Mr Crump, he enlisted in the military after graduating from high school in Atlanta, Georgia with honours.

Mr Crump, a civil rights lawyer based in Florida, has worked on multiple high-profile cases of police-involved deaths of black Americans, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Tyre Nichols and Breonna Taylor.

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