Florida sheriff releases video of deputy shooting Black man

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A Florida county sheriff on Thursday released body-camera video of a deputy fatally shooting a Black airman who had a handgun at his side in his apartment, after civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family, urged officials to release it.

The family of the deceased, Roger Fortson, 23, has insisted the deputy, who was investigating a domestic violence complaint, knocked on the wrong door on May 3.

The video shows Fortson opening the door and holding a handgun at his side and pointed down. The deputy immediately opens fire multiple times at close range. Fortson later died in the hospital.

“It is very troubling that the deputy gave no verbal commands and shot multiple times within a split second of the door being opened, killing Roger,” the family said in a statement released by Crump, who represents them.

“We remain adamant that the police had the wrong apartment as Roger was on the phone with his girlfriend for a substantial amount of time leading up to the shooting, and no one else was in the apartment,” the family statement said.

The killing is reminiscent of an unannounced police raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020, when police burst into the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was an emergency medical technician, killing her. Police had obtained a “no knock” warrant to raid the apartment, mistaking it for the home of a suspect.

Taylor’s death, along with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police weeks later, set off a worldwide wave of protests against racism in law enforcement in the summer of 2020.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said in a statement the unidentified deputy was responding to a call of a disturbance in progress when he encountered an armed man and fired.

The deputy was placed on administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates and the

the State Attorney’s Office conducts an independent review, Aden said.

“What we do know at this time is that the deputy did announce himself, not once but twice,” Aden told reporters on Thursday upon releasing the video.

“The deputy knocked on the correct door. He did not cover the peephole or otherwise obscure its view,” Aden said, adding that he believes Fortson knew that law enforcement was at the door when he answered with a gun in his hand.

The body-camera video records the deputy twice saying “sheriff’s office, open the door.”

It remained unclear who called law enforcement on the day of the shooting or why.

The video shows a woman who met the deputy at the complex and directed him to apartment 1401, where she said she heard noises that sounded like domestic abuse two weeks prior. But there was no indication of why any witness might suspect there was a disturbance in that apartment on the day of the shooting, because Fortson was home there alone. That is why the family suspects the deputy was directed to the wrong door.

Crump said at a Thursday press conference that Fortson was on a Facetime call with his girlfriend when he heard a knock on his door. He asked, “Who is it?” but didn’t get a response, Crump said, relating the girlfriend’s account.

Fortson then retrieved a gun he owned legally and walked back through his living room toward the door, Crump said.

“He was in his apartment minding his business and then … this cascade of tragic events started to take place,” Crump said.

Crump’s office also released Facetime video from Fortson’s call with his girlfriend that seemed to capture Fortson moaning and saying “I can’t breathe” as he lay mortally wounded and the deputy shouted orders to “stop moving.” The camera appeared to be pointed at a ceiling fan and did not show Fortson or the deputy.

Crump said Fortson always dreamt of becoming a pilot, describing him as a patriot and a good young man who followed rules and respected authority.

“My baby was my everything,” his mother said during the news conference, demanding full transparency from the sheriff’s office as she held a photograph of her son. “Tell the truth about my son … please clean his reputation.”