Family of U.S. airman fatally shot by Florida deputy demands release of bodycam footage

Okaloosa Island county Sheriff's Office emergency medical services building with sign by beach by ramp in Florida Panhandle^ Gulf of Mexico

Attorneys for the family of an Air Force airman killed last week by a Florida sheriff’s deputy called Thursday for law enforcement officials to release the bodycam footage surrounding the 23-year-old young man’s death, saying that he had done nothing wrong before being fatally shot.

According to a statement from Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden, the shooting occurred on the afternoon of May 3 when a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of a disturbance in progress at an apartment complex, entered the unit and opened fire. The sheriff said the deputy heard sounds of a disturbance and reacted in self defense after he encountered the 23-year-old.  In its statement, the sheriff’s office said: “our deputy responded to a call of a disturbance in progress where he encountered an armed man. The deputy shot the man, who later succumbed to his injuries.”

The family of 23-year-old Senior Airman Roger Fortson said he was shot while his girlfriend ()who was on a FaceTime call with him throughout the encounter) said that the deputy burst into the wrong unit and fatally shot Fortson when he saw he was armed with a gun. Brian Barr, one of the family’s attorneys, said at a press conference: “He lost his life because they knocked on the wrong door. Mistakes happen. We know that. Humans aren’t perfect. Good people make mistakes. But good people also own their mistakes …You go pick it up and read it. What’s it make you think? It makes you think this happened outside. That this kid was in the middle of a disturbance. And he did something. He instigated this and lost his life. That’s what it makes it sound like. It sounded justified. That’s what they tried to make it sound like. We want to know what happened. We want the mistakes to be owned. We’re not going away until that transparency happens.”

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is also representing Fortson’s family, said that they planned to review the body camera video with members of the sheriff’s office later Thursday and that he expected it to be released publicly, adding that the deputy went to the wrong apartment as there was no disturbance at Fortson’s residence and he was alone:  “They took a good guy. They took a patriot from us. Then to put out this narrative that an officer killed a citizen at this apartment complex in self-defense. You put out this narrative demonizing his name as if he did something wrong. Trying to justify an unjustifiable killing. When you make a mistake, you own up to it. You don’t try to justify killing a good guy. Okaloosa sheriff’s office, they need to give him the dignity and respect he so richly deserved.”

Editorial credit: Andriy Blokhin /