Wednesday, May 15, 2024

FL: Okaloosa County Shooting of Airman Roger Fortson: Body Cam Video

Link to YouTube video

At about 4:28 p.m., on May 3rd, 2024, in Okaloosa County, Florida, a Okaloosa Deputy Sheriff responded to a domestic violence call from an apartment complex. A few minutes later, the Deputy shot and killed Senior Airman Roger Fortson after Fortson opened his apartment door in response to the Deputy's demands.

The incident has gone viral. Fortson's family has hired controversial shock lawyer Ben Crump. Crump has made statements the shooting was at the wrong apartment, and Fortson was shot as he walked away from the door, and deputies burst into the apartment. From

Crump wrote that Fortson grabbed his "legally-owned" gun and was shot as
he was walking back to the living room, as deputies burst through the

The body camera video has been released by the Okaloosa County Sheriff at a press conference. Here is a synopsis of what this correspondent saw in the video.

A woman at the complex directed the Deputy Sheriff to apartment 1401, based on information she had received from another woman.  The Deputy called for backup and told the woman to direct the backup to him when they arrived. The Deputy proceeded to the apartment.  At the apartment, he listened for several seconds, then knocked on the door. Then he moved out of the vulnerable area in front of the door, and out of the view of the peep hole. Then he knocked again, while out of view of the peep hole.  From inside the apartment, a garbled phrase can be heard, of a few words. The only distinguishable word was "police".

The deputy moves in front of the door, knocks loudly and announces himself. He demands the door be opened. He knocks again, loudly announcing himself and demanding the door be opened. The door is opened, partially. The deputy commands: step back. As Roger Fortson complies and steps back, the video reveals he has a handgun in his hand, held down at his side. As Fortson is complying, the deputy fires five shots, rapid fire, and Fortson falls down, dropping the handgun. After Fortson is on the floor, the deputy commands: Drop the gun! Drop the gun!  The commands to drop the gun are given after Fortson is down on the floor,  having dropped the gun while he was being shot.


There are obvious contradictions between what attorney Crump wrote and what is shown in the body camera video. Those contradictions do not mean the deputy was justified in shooting Fortson.


Early indications are there was no one else in the apartment with Roger Fortson. He was on the phone with his girlfriend. Those facts will be verified in an investigation. The Sheriff's Department has not disputed them, although they pointed out claims made by attorney Crump which were contradicted by the video. The Sheriff is handling the situation correctly by calling in an outside agency to investigate the incident, and not making any claims as to whether the shooting was justified or not at this time.  

The body camera video does not look good for the deputy.

The actual phone conversation with the girlfriend will become part of the record. The 911 call to the dispatcher will be part of the investigation and will become publicly available.  The situation is reminiscent of the police shooting of Ryan Whitaker in Phoenix, by police, as he answered the door with a gun in his hand in May of 2020. Whitaker also appeared to be complying with police when he was shot and killed.

Public reaction varies between noting there is nothing illegal about answering the door with a gun in your hand, and the shooting was not justified, to those claiming opening the door to  police, with a gun in your hand, gives the police justification to shoot you.  One reaction is: with backup on the way, the officer should have waited a few minutes until backup was there.

Handguns are common in Florida and across the United States. Some departments have indoctrinated officers with a "see a gun, shoot" mentality. It is unclear what training the deputy had, or what might have made him so primed to shoot so rapidly at the mere sight of a gun, held at a person's side.

These incidents are very rare. When they happen they make a viral news story, which makes them appear to be more common than they are.  This is a tragic situation which will be carefully investigated by an outside agency.

 ©2024 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch

No comments: