Hundreds pack funeral for Roger Fortson, the Black airman killed in his home by an Okaloosa County deputy

Roger Fortson family AP
He was shot six times by a deputy responding to a May 3 call about a possible domestic violence situation at Fortson’s apartment complex in the Florida Panhandle.

Hundreds of Air Force members in dress blues joined Roger Fortson’s family, friends and others at a suburban Atlanta megachurch on Friday to pay their final respects to the Black senior airman, who was shot and killed in his Florida home earlier this month by a sheriff’s deputy.

People lined up well before the start of the service at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest to file past the open coffin and say their goodbyes to Fortson, who was shot six times by a deputy responding to a May 3 call about a possible domestic violence situation at Fortson’s apartment complex in the Florida Panhandle. He was 23.

Fortson’s face and upper body were visible in his Air Force uniform, with an American flag draped over the lower half of the coffin. After viewing the body, many mourners paused to hug one another.

“As you can see from the sea of Air Force blue, I am not alone in my admiration of Senior Airman Fortson,” Col. Patrick Dierig told mourners, referring to the rows of airmen who took up nearly an entire section of the sprawling church.

“We would like to take credit for making him great, but the truth is that he was great before he came to us,” said Dierig, who commands the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Air Force Base in Florida, where Fortson was stationed.

The Fortson family’s lawyer, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, delivered a rousing address, telling the gathering: “We will remember him for the American patriot he was.”

“He was the best from East Atlanta. … He was the best from the state of Georgia. He was the best from America. He was one of the best this world had to offer,” Crump said.

In a recorded video played at the service, the Rev. Al Sharpton also highlighted Fortson’s military service and called for his death to not go unpunished.

“He as a young Black man stood up, signed up to fight for this country. The question now is will the country stand up and fight for him? … That is the question and that is what we intend to get an answer to,” Sharpton said.

On Thursday, Fortson’s mother vowed to get justice for her son, who had served in overseas combat zones. At a news conference held by the family and Crump, Meka Fortson spoke glowingly about how her son had always stayed on a positive path and had never been in trouble or shown signs of violence.

She also had a message for Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden: “You’re going to give me justice whether you want to, Sheriff Aden, or not,” she said.

On the day he was killed, Fortson opened the door while holding a handgun pointed toward the floor, according to the deputy’s body camera footage. The deputy shouted, “Step back!” and then shot Fortson six times. Only afterward did he shout, “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” The deputy then called paramedics on his radio.

Fortson’s family and Crump argue that the shooting was completely unjustified and that the deputy had gone to the wrong apartment while responding to a call about a possible domestic disturbance in progress at the apartment complex. Fortson was home alone and talking to his girlfriend on FaceTime when he grabbed his gun because he heard someone outside his unit, Crump has said.

The deputy, whose name has not been released, shot Fortson within moments of the airman responding to the deputy’s knocking and opening his door. Sheriff’s officials say the deputy acted in self-defense.

Two weeks after the shooting, the sheriff has yet to release an incident report, any 911 records or the officer’s identity, despite requests for the information under Florida’s open records act.

The case is among many around the country in which Black people have been shot in their homes by law enforcement personnel.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating and the deputy has been placed on administrative leave.


Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Associated Press


  • Impeach Biden

    May 18, 2024 at 5:12 pm

    Ben Crump and Al Sharpton. That’s all I need to know. Never ever answer the door to police with a gun in your hand. Bad things usually happen.

    • Paul

      May 18, 2024 at 6:10 pm

      Especially if you’re black. In Okaloosa County.

      • Impeach Biden

        May 18, 2024 at 6:28 pm

        Not really. Now if you are in a car and get pulled over by the police and have a weapon. Do you put your hands on the dash? Or do you have a gun in your hand as the police approach? What is the smart answer? I feel awful for the kid but never, ever have a weapon in your hand when the police come
        White, black, yellow, brown, green. Bad things could happen.

        • Paul

          May 19, 2024 at 9:29 am

          Copsplaining. The kid was murdered.

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  • Speedy Gonzalez

    May 18, 2024 at 6:53 pm

    Good evening “Dook 4 Brains Leftys” remember the BLM RIOTS of 2020?
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    • Ocean Joe

      May 18, 2024 at 8:49 pm

      Look, way too many Black Americans get killed for no reason at the hands of the police.

      He had a gun in his hands. You guys want everybody to have a gun. You cry like babies when there’s the slightest limit, like background checks. Small town, should not have made this mistake as to who lived where. But the cops are always right except when they are protecting the Capitol from insurrectionist Trumpers, right Earl?

      • Albert

        May 18, 2024 at 9:22 pm

        Yeah a Senior airman knowing how things are with law enforcement should have complied I would have

        • Sandra Price

          May 18, 2024 at 10:35 pm

          Comply to what. He was already shot and on the floor..when he told him to drop the gun.

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      May 19, 2024 at 8:56 am

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    • Paul

      May 19, 2024 at 9:33 am

      No riots…it’s the Redneck Riviera. Maybe some of his Air Force buddies will find that deputy instead…

  • Richard D

    May 18, 2024 at 7:02 pm

    While it’s a tragic event, substantially more whites than blacks are killed by police every year. Last time I looked at the statistics, police had killed around 1,200 people each year. Most people don’t know the facts about that because police and the media control what’s reported to the public. Probably the only reason police quickly released the Fortson bodycam video is because it clearly shows that Fortson answered the door while holding a gun (pointed at the floor).

    • Paul

      May 19, 2024 at 11:42 am

      By absolute numbers, yes, more White folk are killed by police. By percentage of population, Blacks are killed at twice the rate as Whites.

  • KathrynA

    May 18, 2024 at 9:28 pm

    He had no reason to expect the police and he didn’t know if it was the police or someone pretending to be. You just don’t know anymore. It didn’t look like there were windows out into that hallway to see. If it was the wrong apartment, then it’s doubly awful. It obviously looked the Air Force thought a lot of him as they were there in numbers to support him and his family.

    • Ocean Joe

      May 20, 2024 at 9:49 am

      Well said.

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    May 28, 2024 at 6:36 pm

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Comments are closed.


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