IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lawyer for family of slain airman says Florida deputy call shows he went to wrong apartment

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump played audio from a police radio in which a dispatcher says a “fourth party” gave information about the location of the disturbance.
Chantemekki Fortson.
Roger Fortson's mother, Chantemekki Fortson, at a news conference Thursday in Stonecrest, Ga.Mike Stewart / AP

A lawyer for the family of Roger Fortson insisted Thursday that the body camera video from the Florida sheriff’s deputy who killed the Black Air Force senior airman and police radio audio support their assertion that the deputy went to the wrong apartment while responding to a domestic disturbance call that day.

At a news conference, civil rights attorney Ben Crump played audio from a police radio in which a dispatcher says a “fourth party” gave information about the location of the disturbance.

“Uh, don’t have, uh, any further other than a male and female,” the dispatcher tells officers. “It’s all fourth-party information from the front desk at the leasing office.”

The news conference was held at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, Georgia, and was attended by Fortson’s parents, siblings and other family.

Crump said the radio audio had been condensed to remove communications that were not relevant to the incident at the apartment complex where Fortson was shot six times. NBC News has not listened to an unedited version of the audio.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is handling the criminal investigation into the shooting, did not immediately return requests for comment about the family’s assertion that the deputy went to the wrong door. The sheriff’s office has not released an incident report or any 911 records. Sheriff Eric Aden has previously said the deputy had not entered the wrong apartment.

Chantemekki Fortson, mother of Roger Fortson, holds a photo of her son during a news conference.
Roger Fortson's mother, Chantemekki Fortson, holds a photo of her son at a news conference May 9 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.Gerald Herbert / AP

Fortson, 23, was shot May 3 in the doorway of his apartment in Fort Walton Beach by a deputy from the sheriff’s office who was responding to an apparent domestic dispute. Fortson’s family and their attorneys have insisted the deputy went to the wrong apartment because Fortson was home alone and on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend at the time of the incident. Crump said Thursday that the two were not raising their voices and had been making plans to see each other that weekend. Crump and Fortson’s family contend his killing was unjustified.

Crump showed two clips from the body camera video of the deputy being led around the apartment complex by a woman. At one point, the deputy asks her, “Which door?” She tells him, “I’m not sure.” The woman also tells the deputy that she heard a disturbance that included a slap two weeks ago and says, “I wasn’t sure where it came from.”

The woman later tells the deputy that he should go to apartment 1401, footage shows. It is unclear who the woman is, but Crump said Thursday that he believes she works in the leasing office of the complex.

When the deputy arrives at the apartment, he first knocks without identifying himself. He then knocks two more times, identifies himself as a member of the sheriff’s office and steps away from the door.

The video shows Fortson answer the door of his apartment with a gun in his right hand that is pointed downward and being shot by the deputy within seconds. After shooting, the deputy shouted for Fortson to drop the gun. Fortson legally owned the firearm, Crump said.

Crump said multiple times Thursday that he believed the deputy had “used excessive force” and had “executed” Fortson.

“As his mother said, they cannot stain his reputation,” Crump said. “But she feels, as long as they continue to say that they went to the right apartment, they’re staining his reputation. Because Roger did not have any domestic disturbance. Roger had no criminal history.”