Senior Airman Roger Fortson was home alone in his off-base apartment causing no trouble and FaceTiming with a woman when a Okaloosa County Sheriff’s deputy, responding to the wrong address for a disturbance, broke through his door and fatally shot him Friday, an attorney for the airman’s family said Wednesday.

Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney hired by Fortson’s family, detailed the account in a news release, which was also posted on Twitter Wednesday, asking for transparency and the immediate release of body camera footage of the incident.

Fortson, 23, was shot six times, said Crump, who attributed his account of the shooting to the woman, a witness who the airman had been FaceTiming with during the incident.

According to that woman, Crump said, Fortson heard a knock on his door, and when he asked who it was didn’t get a response. A few minutes later, there was a “very aggressive knock,” but Fortson didn’t see anyone when he looked out the peephole.

“Concerned, he did what any other law-abiding citizen would do and retrieved his legally-owned gun,” Crump said.

As Fortson walked back to his living room, “police burst through the door” and shot him six times, Crump said, adding that the witness said they saw Fortson on the ground saying, “I can’t breathe.”

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said a deputy encountered Fortson with a gun while responding to a disturbance around 4:30 p.m. local time Friday at an apartment located at 319 Racetrack Road NW in Fort Walton Beach, just several miles from Hurlburt Field, where Fortson served as a gunner on the AC-130J Ghostrider in the 4th Special Operations Squadron.

Fortson died at a local hospital, officials said.

Few other details have been released about the shooting, including the type of disturbance the sheriff’s office was responding to. The office late Tuesday declined to release body camera footage, an incident report and other recordings related to the shooting to Air Force Times, citing an ongoing investigation.

According to an unverified audio recording of a dispatch call posted on Facebook, police received a disturbance call related to a male and female and that it was called in by an apartment complex’s leasing office. The recording refers to a Black male who had been shot “multiple” times in the chest.

Fortson’s apartment complex declined to comment to Air Force Times.

The deputy who shot Fortson, who has not been identified, has been placed on paid administrative leave and Okaloosa Sheriff Eric Aden said Wednesday afternoon that he has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to handle the investigation into the matter.

While he asked for the “community’s patience,” Crump demanded “immediate answers.”

“The circumstances surrounding Roger’s death raise serious questions that demand immediate answers from authorities, especially considering the alarming witness statement that the police entered the wrong apartment. The narrative released by law enforcement, which falsely suggests that Roger posed a threat, is deeply troubling and inconsistent with the details provided by that witness: Roger was home alone, causing no disturbance, when his life was tragically cut short by law enforcement,” Crump said in a statement.

Crump could not be immediately reached for comment. He is a well-known civil rights attorney who has represented families in high-profile cases involving Black people killed by law enforcement, including George Floyd, Michael Brown and Breonna Taylor.

Hurlburt Field has said in social media posts that the base is supporting Fortson’s family and offering assistance to grieving airmen.

The Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office faced scrutiny last year after a deputy mistook a falling acorn striking his patrol vehicle for a gun shot and fired at his SUV while a suspect sat inside restrained. According to an internal investigation, Deputy Jesse Hernandez believed the shot came from inside his vehicle. The suspect, who is Black, was uninjured in the shooting. The sheriff’s office determined Hernandez’ use of force was not reasonable and he resigned in November.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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