Mother of airman killed by Florida deputy says his firing, alone, won't cut it

The mother of an airman who was shot and killed by a Florida sheriff’s deputy says the deputy’s firing was not justice for her son’s killing

Sudhin Thanawala,Terry Spencer
Monday 03 June 2024 18:13 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The mother of an Air Force airman who was fatally shot in the doorway to his home by a Florida sheriff's deputy said Monday that the deputy's firing was not justice for her son's killing.

Chantemekki Fortson spoke at a news conference in Atlanta accompanied by her attorney, Ben Crump, who said the firing of Okaloosa County Deputy Eddie Duran was a “step forward,” but that Duran should also be charged in Senior Airman Roger Fortson's killing.

Sheriff Eric Aden fired Duran on Friday, about a month after he shot and killed Roger Fortson while responding to a domestic violence call and being directed to Fortson’s apartment.

In addition to saying Duran's firing isn't enough, Chantemekki Fortson said it should have happened much sooner.

“Let’s be clear, that is not justice," she said of the firing. “That’s you thinking you’re throwing me a bone and I'm OK with it. I'm not OK with it. I’m not OK with it.”

Duran shot Fortson, 23, multiple times on May 3, two seconds after he opened his door while legally holding a handgun pointed down, the deputy's body camera footage shows. Fortson was Black. Duran, 39, is Hispanic.

A sheriff’s internal affairs investigation released Friday concluded that, “Mr. Fortson did not make any hostile, attacking movements, and therefore, the former deputy’s use of deadly force was not objectively reasonable.” Outside law enforcement experts have also said that an officer cannot shoot only because a possible suspect is holding a gun if there is no threat.

Duran has not replied to repeated voicemails left at a number listed as his. His lawyer, John Whitaker, also hasn't responded to repeated phone messages seeking comment.

According to the internal affairs report, Duran told investigators that when Fortson opened the door, he saw aggression in the airman’s eyes. He said he fired because, “I’m standing there thinking I’m about to get shot, I’m about to die.”

“It is him or me at this point and I need to, I need to act as opposed to react,” he told investigators.

Duran's personnel records released by the sheriff's office showed that four days before the shooting, he asked to be shifted from full-time to part-time duty because of unspecified “family hardships.”

He returned to the sheriff's office 11 months before the shooting. He previously worked there from 2019 to 2021 and left because his wife, a registered nurse, had been transferred to a Naval hospital in another area.

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron at nearby Hurlburt Field as a special missions aviator serving on an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship.

Duran had been dispatched to Fortson's apartment complex after a manager reported a domestic disturbance. The manager directed Duran to Fortson's fourth-floor unit, though he lived alone and had no guests that afternoon. He was playing a video game while talking with his girlfriend on a video call when the deputy knocked. She told investigators that she and Fortson had not been arguing.

When Duran arrived outside Fortson’s door, he stood silently for 20 seconds and listened, but no voices inside are heard on his body camera.

He pounded on the door but didn’t identify himself, then moved to the side of the door, about 5 feet away (1.5 meters). He told investigators that he feared the person inside might fire through the door or open the door and push him over the rail and to the ground about 40 feet (12 meters) below.

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. A muffled voice can be heard on the video — Duran said he heard someone cursing at the police.

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

Fortson’s girlfriend told investigators that the airman asked who was there but did not get a response. She said Fortson told her he was not going to answer the door because no one comes to his apartment. She said neither of them heard the deputy yell that he was with the sheriff’s office.

After the third knock, she said Fortson told her, “I’m gonna go grab my gun because I don’t know who that is.”

When Fortson opened the door holding his gun pointed at the ground, Duran said “Step back,” and then immediately began firing. Fortson fell backward onto the floor.

Only then did the deputy yell, “Drop the gun!”


Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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