HomeCivil RightsDeputy Fired After Investigation Into Fatal Shooting of U.S. Airman

Deputy Fired After Investigation Into Fatal Shooting of U.S. Airman

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In a new development following the fatal shooting of Senior Airman Roger Fortson, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has terminated Deputy Eddie Duran. The decision came after an internal affairs investigation concluded that Duran’s use of deadly force violated agency policy and was not objectively reasonable.

Congressman Matt Gaetz, who represents the district where Fortson was stationed, spoke out in defense of Fortson following the release of the body camera footage. Gaetz stated, “Roger did not deserve to die. He did nothing wrong. He is an American patriot for serving in our military and should be remembered as such – with no stain on his reputation whatsoever”

No other elected Republicans have spoken on the issue including Governor DeSantis, and none attended the airman’s funeral.

Deputy Eddie Duran

Incident Overview

On May 3, 23-year-old Roger Fortson was at his apartment in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, when he was fatally shot by Deputy Duran. Fortson, an airman stationed at Hurlburt Field’s Special Operations Wing, was reportedly spending time alone with his dog while video chatting with his girlfriend.

The sheriff’s office initially dispatched Duran to respond to an “in-progress physical disturbance” at Fortson’s apartment complex. Upon arrival, Duran was directed to unit 1401 by a complex employee, who indicated it was the location of recent disturbances.

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Conflicting Accounts

The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, disputes the sheriff’s office account, stating that Fortson was on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend at the time of the incident and was not involved in any disturbance. The family alleges that Duran was directed to the wrong apartment.

Body camera footage released by the sheriff’s office shows Duran knocking on Fortson’s door and announcing his presence, but then hiding out of view. After several knocks and announcements, Fortson opened the door, holding what appeared to be a handgun at his side pointed down. Within seconds, Duran shot Fortson without giving any commands.

According to Crump, Fortson had retrieved his legally owned gun after hearing the knock and not hearing the announcement, out of concern for his safety. The video footage captured Fortson saying, “I can’t breathe,” while groaning after being shot. It also captured the deputy telling him to drop the gun which he no longer had in his possession.

Investigation Findings

The internal affairs investigation determined that Duran’s actions were not justified. The sheriff’s office reported that Fortson did not physically resist and did not point the gun in Duran’s direction. Despite holding a firearm, Fortson had it pointed at the ground.

Sheriff Eric Aden of Okaloosa County expressed regret over the incident, stating, “This tragic incident should have never occurred. 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.”

Family’s Response

Ben Crump, the family’s attorney, said, “The firing of the officer who shot and killed Roger Fortson is a step forward, but it is not full justice for Roger and his family. The actions of this deputy were not just negligent, they were criminal.”

Crump emphasized the ongoing nature of the criminal investigation, stating, “While the criminal investigation is still ongoing, we fully anticipate charges to be filed against this officer. The video footage provides damning proof that this was a brutal and senseless killing of a young man who was simply enjoying time alone with his dog while video chatting with his girlfriend.”

Next Steps

While Duran has been terminated, the criminal investigation is ongoing. Crump emphasized that the firing is only a step towards justice for Fortson and his family, and he anticipates charges to be filed against Duran.

This case continues to raise important questions about police conduct and the appropriate use of force, particularly in situations involving misunderstandings or miscommunications.

For more updates on this developing story, visit The Space Coast Rocket.

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