Florida sheriff’s office fires deputy who fatally shot Black airman at home

A Florida sheriff on Friday fired a deputy who fatally shot a Black airman at his home while holding a handgun pointed to the ground.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden fired Deputy Eddie Duran, who fatally shot Senior Airman Roger Fortson on May 3 after responding to a domestic violence call and being directed to Fortson’s apartment.

Body camera video shows that when the deputy arrived outside Fortson’s door, he stood silently for 20 seconds outside and listened, but no voices inside were heard on his body camera.

He then pounded on the door, but didn’t identify himself. He then moved to the side of the door, about 5 feet away (1.5 meters). He waited 15 seconds before pounding on the door again. This time he yelled, "Sheriff’s office — open the door!" He again moved to the side.

Less than 10 seconds later, he moved back in front of the door and pounded again, announcing himself once more.

Fortson, 23, opened the door, his legally purchased gun in his right hand. It was at his side, pointing to the ground. The deputy said "Step back," then immediately began firing. Fortson fell backwards onto the floor and the deputy yelled, "Drop the gun!"

READ: Air Force airman fatally shot at Florida apartment by deputies who had wrong apartment: Lawyer

Aden said Duran was wrong to fire his weapon.

"This tragic incident should have never occurred," Aden said in his statement. "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."

Pictured: U.S. Airman Roger Fortson

Pictured: U.S. Airman Roger Fortson 

No phone number could be immediately found for Duran. Email and phone messages seeking comment from his attorney John Whitaker were not immediately returned by The Associated Press. 

A criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is ongoing.

Sabu Williams, president of the Okaloosa County NAACP, applauded Aden’s action.

"We appreciate what the internal investigation has shown and what the sheriff has done to this point," Williams told The Associated Press. "We don’t think this is the end of it, obviously."

He said the NAACP has a good relationship with the Republican sheriff.

Ben Crump is an attorney for Fortson’s family.

Ben Crump is an attorney for Fortson’s family.

"Some of us may have wanted things to happen a lot quicker, but I know due diligence has to take place," Williams said.

From 2003 through 2014, Duran served in the U.S. Army, with a military career that included a combat deployment to Iraq in 2008, according to the sheriff’s investigative report on the Fortson shooting.

He worked in military intelligence, and then moved into military law enforcement. He received an honorable discharge, the report states.

After serving in the Army, Duran began a law enforcement career in Oklahoma, where he worked as a police officer and canine officer from 2015 to 2019. He also served as a fire marshal for the Altus, Oklahoma, fire department around 2016-2017, according to the report.

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