Roger Fortson: Body of Atlanta airman killed by deputy to be returned to family

The body of an Atlanta Air Force service member shot and killed in the doorway of his Florida apartment has finally made it home to his family.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, was transported to Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by the Air Force via dignified transfer at 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, according to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Fortson's family.  

His family is preparing for his funeral on Friday at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest. 

Many from Fortson’s unit said they would travel to Georgia to attend his funeral, with a flyover of Special Operations AC-130s planned.


Georgia airman killed by Florida deputy

An Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputy shot Fortson last Friday. Sheriff’s officials say he acted in self-defense while responding to a call of a disturbance in progress at an apartment complex. 

In body camera footage recorded on May 3, the deputy can be heard calling out, "Sheriff’s office, open the door," the deputy could be heard saying. 

The deputy then opened fire on Fortson just moments after he opened his apartment door while holding a gun pointing down. 

The aftermath of the shooting can be heard from a clip from Fortson's phone. 

"I can't breathe," he could be heard saying.

Crump has accused the deputy of going to the wrong apartment and said the shooting was unjustified.

The Okaloosa County sheriff says an investigation is underway. 

"I want to assure you that we are not hiding, covering up or taking action that would result in a rush to judgment," said Sheriff Eric Aden. 

Meantime, the deputy involved is on administrative leave. 

Who was Roger Fortson? 

Air Force service was a lifelong dream, and Fortson rose to the rank of senior airman. He was stationed at Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton Beach.

"Where we come from, we don’t end up where Roger ended up," his mother said.

Fortson, a gunner aboard an AC-130J, earned an Air Medal with combat device, which is typically awarded after 20 flights in a combat zone or for conspicuous valor or achievement on a single mission. An Air Force official said Fortson’s award reflected both — completing flights in a combat zone and taking specific actions during one of the missions to address an in-flight emergency and allow the mission to continue. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide additional details that had not been made public.

But his service, like almost everything else he did, had a larger purpose.

"He was trying to help his family have a better life," Crump said Thursday.

That meant serving as a role model for his 16-year-old brother, André, his mom said, saving up to try to buy her a house and get her a new car. His nickname was "Mr. Make It Happen."

Just two days before his death, Fortson called home to find out what his 10-year-old sister wanted for her birthday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.