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Florida Sheriff Releases Bodycam Footage of Black Airman (Roger Fortson) Fatally Shot in His Apartment by Deputy at WRONG Location | WATCH

Black Airman Roger Fortson (Hurlburt Field-Facebook via CNN Newsource)
Airman Roger Fortson (Hurlburt Field-Facebook via CNN Newsource)

*(CNN) — A Florida sheriff’s office publicly released bodycam footage from a deputy who fatally shot a Black airman (Roger Fortson) in his home last week, and disputed claims from the victim’s family that the deputy had gone to the wrong apartment.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden showed the video during a Thursday news conference, shortly after an attorney for the 23-year-old airman’s family called for its public release.

The victim, an ​active-duty senior airman, according to attorney Ben Crump, said at an earlier news conference Thursday the family was set to view the bodycam video early this afternoon.

Crump had called for the public release of the bodycam footage, saying a witness believed the deputy was at the wrong apartment.

“The circumstances surrounding Roger’s death raise serious questions that demand immediate answers from authorities, especially considering the alarming witness statement that the police entered the wrong apartment,” Crump said in a statement, citing the account of a person who was on FaceTime with Fortson at the time of the shooting.

But the sheriff disputed that claim. CNN has reached out to Crump for comment.

“Those statements are inaccurate,” Aden said. “What we do know at this time is that the deputy did announce himself, not once but twice. Mr. Fortson’s comments indicate that he did acknowledge it was law enforcement at the door and he arrived at the door with a firearm in his hand. The deputy knocked on the correct door, he did not cover the peephole or otherwise obscured its view in any way.”

The sheriff said he has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Division to handle the criminal investigation, as is required.

“While this is a criminal investigation, no determination has been made as to whether the deputy’s actions were justified or not,” Aden said.

What the bodycam footage shows

Deputies responded last Friday to an apartment after receiving a call for “a disturbance in progress,” Aden said in a previous statement.

“Hearing sounds of a disturbance, (a deputy) reacted in self-defense after he encountered a 23-year-old man armed with a gun and after the deputy had identified himself as law enforcement,” the sheriff said.

“The deputy shot the man, who later succumbed to his injuries,” said the sheriff. The deputy involved in the shooting has not been identified by officials. The deputy has been placed on administrative leave, the sheriff has said.

The bodycam footage, dated May 3, begins at roughly 4:28 p.m. with a deputy arriving at what appears to be an apartment complex.

A woman at the complex is heard telling the deputy there was a disturbance in apartment 1401 and that it was “getting out of hand.”

The same woman tells the deputy she previously walked by the apartment and heard yells and “a slap,” but added she wasn’t sure where it came from.

The deputy takes the elevator to the fourth floor and knocks on a door three times. The apartment number “1401” is visible in the footage. He announces himself twice, saying, “Sheriff’s office, open the door.” There is nothing heard in the footage from inside the apartment.

Within seconds of the apartment’s door opening, the deputy says “Step back” and is then seen firing his weapon. Fortson is seen standing at the door with his hands down and what appears to be a lowered firearm in his right hand. He immediately falls to the floor as the deputy fires. At least five shots are heard.

While Fortson is on the floor, the deputy yells “Drop the gun” twice. Fortson is heard saying, “It’s over there,” and then, “I don’t have it.”

The deputy continues to point his weapon at Fortson and tells him not to move, while Fortson remains on the floor. The deputy continues pointing his weapon at Fortson while calling for EMS.

Fortson described as a patriot and responsible young man

At an earlier news conference Thursday, Crump and Fortson’s mother described the Black Airman (Roger Fortson) as a patriot who had long dreamed of serving in the US Air Force. He was a responsible young man who respected authority, they said, and he’d hoped to buy his mother and younger siblings a house.

They urged law enforcement to release more information about the shooting, saying that the narrative put forward so far suggested Fortson had done something wrong.

“To the sheriff’s department that took my gift … I need you guys to tell the truth about my son. I need you to get his reputation right,” Fortson’s mother said.

“I know my son did not do anything to you guys. If he scared you, or if you guys weren’t trained properly, I apologize,” she said. “But please clean my baby’s reputation.”

Airman entered active duty in 2019

Crump identified the FaceTime caller as Fortson’s girlfriend at Thursday’s news conference, telling reporters the 23-year-old had been home for about 30 minutes and playing video games prior to the shooting.

Fortson heard two separate knocks at the door and – the witness said – when no one could be seen through the peephole, Fortson retrieved his gun, which was legally owned, according to Crump’s news release. The deputy then allegedly burst into the apartment and shot Fortson.

The witness said law enforcement responded to the wrong apartment, and there was no disturbance there at the time, Crump said in the news release. According to Crump, the witness said Fortson was alone at the time.

Deputies communicated with dispatch that Fortson had been shot six times with multiple gunshot wounds to the chest with one exit wound, according to police dispatch calls, obtained by CNN affiliate WEAR.

Officers can be heard saying that there was a “disturbance … physical in progress,” in the dispatch calls, WEAR reported.

Fortson entered active duty in November 2019 and was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron, according to a statement from the Air Force, which noted the shooting occurred at the airman’s off-base residence.

“The 1st Special Operations Wing’s priorities are providing casualty affairs service to the family, supporting the squadron during this tragic time, and ensuring resources are available for all who are impacted,” said the Hurlburt Field statement.

Shooting calls to mind past incidents

While details about the shooting remain murky, the allegation the Okaloosa deputy responded to the wrong apartment echoes other shootings in recent years, in which a Black man or woman was killed by law enforcement in their home.

In 2019, a former Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison after fatally shooting Botham Jean in his apartment the year prior. The officer – off duty but still in uniform – lived on the floor below Jean’s and said she approached what she believed to be her own apartment when she saw Jean inside.

Atatiana Jefferson was killed that same year when a Fort Worth officer, responding to what police believed to be a burglary, shot her through her bedroom window.

The officer testified at trial that Jefferson pointed a gun at him, but prosecutors argued there was no evidence he saw the gun before opening fire. The former Fort Worth officer was sentenced to nearly 12 years in prison in 2022.

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