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

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

Details are scarce in the fatal police shooting of a young, Black officer in the U.S. Air Force at his Florida home.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, was killed in his apartment under circumstances that were not immediately clear after a deputy with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office “reacted in self-defense after he encountered a 23-year-old man armed with a gun,” as the police claimed in its narrative.

Citing the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, the Associated Press reported that the deputy responded to a vague report of “a disturbance in progress,” but it was not immediately clear what that referred to.

The deputy allegedly fired his gun only after he “identified himself as law enforcement,” the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office was careful to say, claiming the reaction was to “Hearing sounds of a disturbance.”

Of course, it’s not rare for an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces to be “armed with a gun,” as the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office described the encounter with Fortson, whose job with the U.S. Air Force was in part to load ammunition on Air Force planes.

In addition, the context in which Fortson was allegedly “armed with a gun” was not provided.

More from the Associated Press:

Fortson was taken to a hospital where he died, officials said. The deputy involved was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident.

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron as a special missions aviator, where one of his roles as a member of the squadron’s AC-130J Ghostrider aircrew was to load the gunship’s 30mm and 105mm cannons during missions.

In a statement late Tuesday, Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the incident and the State Attorney’s Office will conduct an independent review. He said the sheriff’s office was “saddened” by the shooting.

The police officer who shot Fortson was not immediately identified.

The lack of details in a shooting that the police are framing as “self defense” could generate some suspicion since law enforcement was seemingly not as transparent as they could have been.

It’s also not the first time that the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has been involved in a questionable shooting in recent months.

There could also be additional scrutiny of this shooting because the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is the same police department that employed a cop who in November infamously shot at an unarmed and handcuffed Black man after mistaking the sound of a falling acorn for a gunshot.

In that instance, now-former deputy Jesse Hernandez is shown on video shooting at unarmed suspect Marquis Jackson – who was not injured – after an acorn fell onto the roof of the patrol car.

That prompted Hernandez to yell “shots fired!” before he let off some rounds from his own service weapon.

Hernandez was allowed to resign gracefully in December while he was under investigation.

In what could be a sign of things to come from the police shooting and killing Fortson, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office ultimately described Hernandez’s actions on that fateful day as “reasonable” and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

This is America.


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