Florida Sheriff sacks deputy who fatally shot Senior Airman at his home

Stephen Nartey June 03, 2024
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s deputies fatally shot Senior Airman Roger Fortson on May 3 -- Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force via AP

A Florida sheriff has relieved a deputy of his position for fatally shooting Senior Airman Roger Fortson, a Black man, during a domestic violence call on May 3. Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden stated that Deputy Eddie Duran’s life was not in danger as Fortson had been holding a handgun pointed to the ground when he was shot.

Body camera footage revealed that Duran first stood silently outside Fortson’s door for 20 seconds without hearing any voices, according to the New York Post. He then pounded on the door without identifying himself, moved to the side, and after 15 seconds, pounded again, this time announcing, “Sheriff’s office — open the door!” before moving to the side again.

Less than 10 seconds later, Duran pounded on the door again and announced himself. When Fortson, 23, opened the door with a gun in his right hand pointed to the ground, Duran told him to “Step back” and immediately began firing, causing Fortson to fall backward onto the floor.

Only after firing did Duran yell, “Drop the gun!” The sheriff’s office stated that their investigation found Fortson made no hostile or attacking movements, making the use of deadly force by the deputy unjustified.

“This tragic incident should have never occurred,” Aden said in the statement. “The objective facts do not support the use of deadly force as an appropriate response to Mr. Fortson’s actions. Mr. Fortson did not commit any crime. By all accounts, he was an exceptional airman and individual.”

According to a sheriff’s report, Duran struck a wall and cursed after the shooting when other deputies arrived. He later explained that he reacted this way because he believed he was “about to get shot.”

“It was, um, just kind of letting out whatever, you know, built up emotion and frustration,” he said, according to the internal report. “It was just one of these things where, you know, as I’m standing there thinking I’m about to get shot, I’m about to die,” he said.

“Once said and done, it was just all the emotion going, ‘Oh my God, like just let it out,’” he said.

A criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is underway.

Fortson lived about 8 miles from Hurlburt Field, where he was a special mission aviator with the 4th Special Operations Squadron. Fortson served on an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, loading its cannons during battles, and had earned an Air Medal with a combat device. He had no criminal record.

Sabu Williams, president of the Okaloosa County NAACP, lauded Aden for his action. “We appreciate what the internal investigation has shown and what the sheriff has done to this point,” Williams told The Associated Press. “We don’t think this is the end of it, obviously.”

He said the NAACP has a good relationship with the Republican sheriff. “Some of us may have wanted things to happen a lot quicker, but I know due diligence has to take place,” Williams said.

From 2003 to 2014, Duran served in the U.S. Army, including a 2008 combat deployment to Iraq, working in military intelligence and law enforcement before receiving an honorable discharge. He then worked as a police officer and canine officer in Oklahoma from 2015 to 2019 and served as a fire marshal from 2016-2017.

Duran joined the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office in July 2019, resigned two years later, and rejoined 11 months ago.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 3, 2024


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