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The Florida deputy who shot U.S. airman Roger Fortson has been fired

Chantemekki Fortson, mother of Roger Fortson, a U.S. Air Force senior airman, holds a photo of her son.
Michael A. McCoy
Chantemekki Fortson, mother of Roger Fortson, a U.S. Air Force senior airman, holds a photo of her son.

The Florida deputy who shot and killed 23-year-old Roger Fortson in his home earlier this month has been fired.

In a news release Friday, the Okaloosa County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department said that Deputy Eddie Duran was fired following the completion of an administrative internal affairs investigation amid Fortson’s death, which concluded that Duran's use of deadly force was not "objectively reasonable" and therefore violated agency policy.

The sheriff’s office said it is “limited in scope” to determine whether Duran violated the agency’s policy.

“This tragic incident should have never occurred,” Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said in the release. “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.”

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is one of several attorneys representing Fortson's family, said in a statement Friday that while Duran's firing is a "step forward," it is not full justice for Fortson and his family.

"The actions of this deputy were not just negligent, they were criminal," Crump said.

"Just as we did for Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, and Breonna Taylor, we will continue to fight for full justice and accountability for Roger Fortson, as well as every other innocent Black man and woman gunned down by law enforcement in the presumed safety of their own home," he added.

Fortson was shot and killed on May 3 during an incident involving the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office. According to authorities, the sheriff's office sent deputies to Fortson's apartment in response to a disturbance call.

Fortson was alone in his apartment FaceTiming with his girlfriend when the deputy approached his door, according to his family's lawyers.

In body cam footage of the incident, a deputy is seen knocking on the door and announcing himself as law enforcement. Fortson then appears while holding a gun pointed toward the ground. The deputy, who was later identified as Duran, immediately fired shots multiple times. Fortson later died in the hospital.

Aden, following the shooting, said that Duran reacted in self-defense after encountering an "armed man." Duran was later put on paid administrative leave, a standard protocol by the sheriff's department following an investigation and administrative review.

In a recording Crump played during a news conference on May 16, a police dispatch officer is heard saying that the disturbance involved "a male and a female," information he said came via a fourth-party from the front desk of the apartment complex.

"When you make a mistake, you own up to it," Crump told reporters. "You don't try to justify killing a good guy. The Okaloosa Sheriff's Department needs to own up to this. Tell the truth."

In an interview with NPR, Fortson's mother, Chantimekki Fortson, and Brian Barr, another family attorney, questioned the deputy's training as they demanded more transparency around the case.

"He served his family, he served the country, served his friends," Barr said. "And it's just such a tragedy, from all angles that — living this life of service doing what he was told to do — he was killed because he opened the door."

Chantimekki told NPR that her son's death has deeply affected her family in many ways — including, she said, how his nieces and nephews now react to the presence of police.

"When my grandkids see the police, they literally start vomiting," she said. "I've taught them to respect the police because of the chaos that goes on and the fact that they get sick to their stomach, it's crazy."

An investigation led by Florida's Department of Law Enforcement is still ongoing. The state attorney's office will determine if any further action is taken.

NPR's Emma Bowman contributed to this report.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.