Crump criticizes decisions that led to killing of Black US airman

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump lambasted Florida police Friday for the decision that led to the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old Black airman in his own home.

Crump’s criticism followed the release of body camera footage that shows an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s deputy shooting Roger Fortson six times within seconds of Fortson opening his apartment door.

“There is no question that the officer acted with impulse and a lack of proper training when he shot and killed Roger within seconds of the door opening,” Crump said in a statement Friday.

Fortson died May 3 after a deputy responded to a call of a domestic dispute. The deputy, who has not yet been publicly identified, opened fire when Fortson opened the door holding his legally owned firearm.

The four-and-a-half-minute body camera footage shows the deputy knocking at least three times and identifying himself as a member of the sheriff’s office at least twice.

According to Crump, Fortson had been unable to see anyone when he looked out the peephole, despite asking who was knocking. When Fortson opened the door, the deputy tells him to step out. Before he can, the deputy opened fire, the video shows.

“When he opened his door and saw the sheriff’s deputy, Roger had his gun pointed to the ground with one hand and held his other hand up to signal he was not going to shoot,” Crump said.

“Only after Roger’s body was riddled with bullets did the officer instruct Roger to drop his gun. Even after he was shot, Roger intended to comply with the officer’s commands to drop his weapon saying with his final breaths, ‘It’s over there. I don’t have it,'” the civil rights attorney added.

The footage was released after Crump and attorney Brian Barr, both representing Fortson’s family, held a press conference demanding transparency from the department. The family has accused the deputy of going to the wrong apartment, something the sheriff denies.

Though the deputy was responding to what residents said sounded like a fight between a man and a woman, Fortson was alone in his apartment at the time the officer arrived.

An unnamed witness who was on Facetime with Fortson at the time of the shooting verified that he was alone in the apartment, according to Crump.

Fortson was an active-duty airman in the Air Force who had just celebrated his birthday in April. According to Crump, he had also just returned from serving in Kuwait.

“It is a harrowing tragedy that Roger dedicated his life to serving his country and defending our constitutional rights and in the end, his constitutional rights were violated, leading to his death,” Crump wrote.

“The second amendment afforded Roger the right to own a gun and yield it as protection when he was unsure who was on the other side of his door. It is clear that this officer needs to be investigated and held accountable for the execution of Roger,” he added. “We will not rest until there is justice for Roger and his family.”

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden met with Fortson’s family Thursday and said in his own press conference that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting a criminal investigation.

“I told Mr. Fortson’s family this afternoon that they have my word, if the shooting is found to be unjustified their son’s name will be fully vindicated,” Aden said.

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