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Attorney for the pilot’s family says video shows the deputy went to the wrong house

STONECREST, Ga. — An attorney for Roger Fortson’s family said Thursday that bodycam footage of the Florida deputy who killed the Black U.S. Air Force pilot and police radio traffic from immediately after the shooting strengthen their claim that the deputy was referred to the wrong apartment while responding to a domestic violence report that day.

In the police radio traffic that defense attorney Ben Crump played at a news conference surrounded by Fortson’s family, a dispatcher says all they know about the location of the disturbance is “four-party information.”

Air Force ID airman fatally shot by Florida sheriff’s officer

“Um, I don’t have more than a male and a female,” the dispatcher tells the officers. “It is all third-party information, coming from the reception of the leasing office.”

Crump also highlighted two parts of the bodycam video in which the officer asks the woman leading him through the complex, “Which door?” The woman replies, “Um…I’m not sure.” Seconds later, the woman tells the officer she heard something two weeks ago, but “I wasn’t sure where it came from.”

Fortson, 23, was shot by an Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputy in the doorway of his apartment on May 3. Sheriff’s officials say the deputy acted in self-defense while responding to a call about a disturbance at the apartment complex. Crump and Fortson’s family claim the deputy went to the wrong unit and the shooting was unjustified.

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Bodycam footage shows a relief pilot being shot seconds after opening the door

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating and the deputy involved has been placed on administrative leave. Nearly two weeks after the shooting, the sheriff has not released an incident report, any 911 records or the identity of the officer, despite requests for the information under Florida’s Open Records Act.

At the news conference, Fortson’s mother, Meka Fortson, said she doesn’t remember her son even killing a spider, and that he didn’t deserve to be killed.

“I will walk through fire” to get justice, she said.

Her message to Sheriff Eric Aden: “You’re going to give me justice whether you want it, Sheriff Aden, or not,” she said.

A kind of shrine has risen outside Fortson’s apartment, where people have left combat boots, bouquets of flowers and an American flag, among other things.

The news conference was held at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, a suburb of Atlanta. It would be followed by a vigil in nearby Decatur. Fortson’s funeral will take place Friday in New Birth.

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Bodycam video of the confrontation shows the deputy arriving at a Fort Walton Beach apartment building and speaking with a woman outside who described hearing an argument. The deputy then took the elevator upstairs and walked down an outside hallway.

The video shows the deputy banging on the door and stepping aside, apparently out of sight of the door. Twice he shouted, “Sheriff’s office! Open the door!”

Fortson, who legally owned a firearm, opened the door and could be seen holding what appeared to be a handgun pointed toward the ground. The deputy shouted, “Stand back!” and then shot Fortson six times. Only then did he shout, ‘Drop that gun! Drop the gun!”

The deputy then called paramedics on his radio. The case is one of many across the country in which black people have been shot in their homes by law enforcement personnel.

Crump previously said Fortson was talking to his girlfriend via FaceTime and he grabbed his gun because he heard someone outside his apartment. He said the deputy burst into the apartment, citing the story of the girlfriend, who has not yet been identified.

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In a clip from the FaceTime video captured on Fortson’s cell phone, the pilot can be heard groaning and saying, “I can’t breathe.” A deputy can be heard yelling at him, “Stop moving!” The phone is pointed at the ceiling and does not show what is happening in the apartment.

Fortson, a senior airman, was stationed at Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He was a gunner aboard the AC-130J and earned a Combat Air Medal, which is typically awarded after 20 sorties in a combat zone or for conspicuous gallantry or achievement during a single mission.

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron as a special missions pilot, where one of his duties was to load the gun’s 30mm and 105mm cannons.

His family says he was in love with his 10-year-old sister and was determined to give her and his mother a better life, hoping to eventually buy her a house.

Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida.

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