Friday, May 31, 2024

New 911 Calls, Police Records Raise More Questions in Senior Airman Roger Fortson Shooting Death May 29, 2924

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New 911 Calls, Police Records Raise More Questions in Senior Airman Roger Fortson Shooting Death

Senior Airman Roger Fortson
This photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, shows Senior Airman Roger Fortson in a Dec. 24, 2019, photo. (U.S. Air Force via AP, File)

Newly released police records and phone calls from a Florida sheriff's department raise more questions over how the deputy who shot and killed Senior Airman Roger Fortson in his home this month was led to the apartment by bystanders.

 Fortson, 23, a senior special operations airman stationed at Hurlburt Field, was shot multiple times within seconds of answering the door to his Fort Walton Beach apartment on May 3. The deputy responding to the call of a disturbance saw Fortson had his legally owned firearm held to his side and immediately opened fire, giving the airman no time to respond.

The sheriff's office released the heavily redacted information to on Tuesday. The records include the initial 911 call, another 911 call around the time of the shooting, and the incident report completed at the time of the shooting, as well as dispatch notes.

Dispatch call history sheets provided by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office to identify two apartment numbers that were not Fortson's, "Unit 1101" and "Unit 1404." The other two units are written in the logs, and it was not immediately clear why they were mentioned.

"Florida statutes dictate what information can be made publicly available at this time as the investigation into this tragic incident remains ongoing; therefore, the records will be released in a redacted format with the statutory exemption cited," the sheriff's office said in a press release. "This remains an incredibly difficult time for everyone in Okaloosa County."

The deputy who shot Fortson has been placed on leave and is facing an administrative investigation, as well as a state probe into the matter. The name of the officer involved was redacted in the police reports provided to Witness names and evidence collected were also redacted. 

The call for the reported disturbance came into the Okaloosa County Sheriff's nonemergency line May 3 from a woman working at the front desk of the leasing office for the residential complex. The woman provided 911 with information on the disturbance that she received from someone else and told dispatch the apartment number was 1401 -- Fortson's unit.

"I literally just got off the phone with her," said the woman, whose name was redacted from the records and phone call. "She said that it's been going on for like 15 to 20 minutes. ... When she called me, she said that she was calling me because it sounded like it was starting to get out of hand. OK ... she said that it sounded like it's sort of getting physical, so I'm not really sure."

The dispatch officer then asks, "Is there any way you're able to hear or see them?"

The woman from the leasing office walks over to the area and says, "I'm right outside of the unit, but I can't hear. They're on the fourth floor, so I can't hear anything from here as of right now."

The leasing office employee also relayed a story to the dispatch officer on May 3 about how a few weeks prior she heard a disturbance between a man and a woman while walking on the sidewalk and said, based on the call she received from the tenant, that it was possible it was the same unit.

"I was hearing like someone, like, a guy yelling at a girl saying like, 'Shut the f--- up ... you stupid b----' or something like that, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from," the woman said on the call. "So, by what she's saying, that might have been them."

Other records from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office obtained by earlier this month showed that, since the beginning of 2023, there had been 10 police calls to another unit in Fortson's building -- apartment 1412 -- for welfare checks, disturbances and an emergency medical service call for a hemorrhage. There had been no calls to Fortson's apartment, 1401, within that same time period.

"This further shows that the deputies got the wrong apartment, contrary to what the sheriff continues to assert," said Natalie Jackson, an attorney for the Fortson family.

According to attorneys for Fortson's family, as well as the body camera footage of the shooting itself, the senior airman was home alone with his dog and on a FaceTime video call with his girlfriend when the police officer arrived at his door. Jackson said Fortson did not argue with his girlfriend during the chat.

After the deputy knocked on the door twice and announced himself, Fortson opened the door while holding his handgun to his side; the fatal shooting occurred within about three seconds. The deputy told Fortson to step back and then just seconds later began firing at him, the police body camera footage shows. The deputy told the airman to drop his legally owned firearm only after Fortson was lying on the floor of his apartment, fatally shot.

Meanwhile, a subsequent 911 call on May 3 provided to by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office was placed from another resident of the building, who said, "They've been arguing for almost an hour now" and then reported they heard gunshots.

"I just heard, what sounded like, three or four gunshots, and a bunch of running and screaming," the caller tells dispatch. "I know there's a kid up there, and that's why I'm freaking out."

The individual's name and unit number were redacted from the audio of the call.

"The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office remains committed to transparency and accountability, as we work to determine the facts and to take appropriate action," the department said in a press release. 

The sheriff's office said it is proceeding with an administrative internal affairs investigation of the shooting, alongside a criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Related: 'He Was Great Before He Came to Us': Air Force Leaders Speak at Funeral of Florida Airman Killed by Police

The original audio of the 911 nonemergency call shows that a person who works at the building was relaying secondhand information on the apartment number where the alleged disturbance was happening. Additionally, a subsequent 911 call from a neighbor details reaction to the shooting.

Related Topics: Military Headlines Air Force Topics Air Force Special Operations Special Operations Hurlburt Field


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