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US airman shot dead by police in Florida

09-05-2024

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA: A US Air Force member was fatally shot by police who entered the wrong address, a lawyer for his family says.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, who was 23 years old and black, died after a deputy sheriff shot him while responding to a service call.

Police earlier said the deputy reacted in self-defence after he saw Fortson armed with a gun.

Citing a witness, the lawyer alleges that police burst into the wrong home. He is demanding a full investigation.

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.

Fortson was taken to a hospital where he died, officials said.

The deputy who shot him has since been placed on administrative leave, according to a statement on Tuesday by Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden.

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

“At this time, we humbly ask for our community’s patience as we work to understand the facts that resulted in this tragic event,” he said.

The lawyer for the Fortson family, Ben Crump, has called for “transparency in the investigation”, saying in a statement on Wednesday that the airman was mistakenly targeted.

Crump gave an account of what happened that he said came from a witness who was on a video call with Fortson at the time of the shooting.

The witness 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.

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 circumstances surrounding Roger’s death raise serious questions that demand immediate answers from authorities,” said Crump. Police are yet to respond to his statement.

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

According to Crump, he enlisted in the military after graduating from high school with honors.

In October last year, a Colorado officer has been found guilty in the death of Elijah McClain, who was pinned down before a medic injected him with ketamine and he died. A jury unanimously convicted Officer Randy Roedema of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault.

Another officer, Jason Rosenblatt, facing the same charges was acquitted.

Both men were accused of using excessive force and ignoring the unarmed black man’s repeated cries of “I can’t breathe”.

Under Colorado law, Roedema now faces possible prison time and a fine.

He was suspended without pay from the Aurora Police Department, while Rosenblatt was fired in 2020.

The 12-person jury reached a verdict on Thursday after deliberating for 16 hours in over two days. The trial is the first of three in relation to McClain’s death. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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