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Senior Airman Roger Fortson of the U.S. Air Force

Senior Airman Roger Fortson. | Source: U.S. Air Force / U.S. Air Force

UPDATED: 1:30 p.m. ET

Originally published at 1:45 a.m. ET

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Thursday revealed new evidence in the fatal police shooting of a young, Black officer with the U.S. Air Force that bolsters previous claims that a Florida deputy responded with lethal force not only at the wrong place but also excessively and without justification.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson’s family joined Crump at a press conference to formally announce the revelation amid allegations that the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s deputy at the center of the shooting responded to the wrong apartment on May 3.

MORE: Roger Fortson Funeral Details Revealed

The press conference was held in Stonecrest, Georgia, at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where a funeral for Fortson, 23, is taking place on Friday.

New evidence

Crump said he was holding the press conference because the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is sticking to a narrative that implies Fortson was in the throes of a domestic dispute when the deputy shot him.

Pointing to the transcript of police bodycam footage, Crump showed that there was confusion about where the reported domestic disturbance was coming from in the apartment complex where Fortson lived.

A woman, who may have been working in the leasing office, is shown telling a deputy she is “not sure” from which apartment she claims she heard a domestic dispute was coming. The woman again says she “wasn’t sure where it came from.”

When the deputy asks the woman a third time for the apartment number, she says “1401” — Fortson’s apartment.

The woman also told the deputy that she heard a female’s voice that “sounded scared.”

That’s when the deputy went to Fortson’s apartment, banged on the door without identifying himself and moved out of view of the apartment’s peephole.

Crump pointed out that the bodycam footage’s audio features birds chirping in the background. He said that shows how quiet things were, the opposite of what the woman said was happening in that apartment. In fact, the only sound aside from the deputy pounding on the door was Fortson’s little dog.

When Fortson — legally armed with a registered gun he held down to his side — did open the door following the fourth knock and the deputy finally identifying himself, the deputy told him to “step back;” orders with which Fortson immediately complied, the bodycam video shows.

Screenshots from the bodycam video show that Fortson’s finger was not on the trigger.

But a split second later, the deputy had already discharged his gun six quick times into Fortson’s upper body.

It was only after Fortson was shot that the deputy gave the Airman a command to drop the gun.

Crump said the new evidence is important because it establishes that the police were told before knocking on Fortson’s door that there was a female inside. Fortson, of course, was alone aside from his dog.

There is also communication from a police dispatcher to the deputy suggesting that the information they had about the reported domestic disturbance may not be that reliable.

“Uh, don’t have, uh, any further other than a male and female,” the disp[atcher is heard saying. “It’s all fourth-party information from the front desk at the leasing office.”

What happened?

Fortson’s girlfriend, claims she and Fortson were on a Facetime call at the time he was killed. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has said the deputy shot Fortson out of “self-defense.”

A portion of the Facetime video made public by Fortson’s family suggests that the police did not immediately administer medical aid to Fortson, another contradiction with the narrative provided by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

The video, which is graphic and should be viewed with discretion, can be seen by clicking here.

“In the four-and-a-half-minute, heavily redacted video, 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 shared with NewsOne last week. “Despite the redactions, the video has provided some answers, but it’s also raised even more troubling questions: As the officer didn’t tell Roger to drop the weapon before shooting, was the officer trained to give verbal warnings? Did the officer try to initiate life-saving measures? Was the officer trained to deal with law-abiding citizens who are registered gun owners?”

The deputy’s identity has remained concealed and he has only ben placed on paid administrative leave.

Fortson’s funeral

Fortson’s body was delivered to his family via a dignified transfer on Tuesday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta as they prepare to lay him to rest following a funeral in which Pastor Jamal Bryant will officiate and deliver the eulogy. Crump is set to deliver a call to action at the funeral.

Hours after Thursday’s press conference, Fortson’s family will host a wake and public viewing at the Donald Trimble Mortuary in Decatur.

Following Friday’s funeral, Fortson’s body is expected to be buried at the Lincoln Cemetery in Atlanta, according to a death notice posted online.


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