Florida Deputy Who Fatally Shot Airman Is Fired

The Florida sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a U.S. Air Force senior airman in the airman’s home this month has been fired, the sheriff’s office said on Friday, describing the deputy’s use of deadly force, which was captured on body camera, as “not objectively reasonable.”

The deputy, Eddie Duran, was responding to a physical disturbance call in Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle on May 3 when he killed Senior Airman Roger Fortson in his apartment. Sheriff Eric Aden of Okaloosa County said in a statement on Friday that his decision to fire Mr. Duran had come after an internal affairs investigation and a review of the body camera footage.

“This tragic incident should have never occurred,” Sheriff Aden said, adding: “Mr. Fortson did not commit any crime. By all accounts, he was an exceptional airman and individual.”

The sheriff’s comments were a stark departure from the language that his office used in the initial aftermath of the shooting. At that time, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said Mr. Duran had “reacted in self-defense.”

The footage, released a week after the shooting, showed that Mr. Duran was told by a worker at the apartment complex to go to Apartment 1401 because of an apparent domestic dispute there.

When the deputy arrives at that apartment, the footage shows, he first knocks without identifying himself. Mr. Duran then knocks again, announces himself and steps away from the door. Seconds later, the deputy shifts to the other side of the door, knocks and announces himself again.

Airman Fortson, 23, who had been alone with his dog and on a video call with his girlfriend, then opens the door, holding in his right hand a gun that is pointed to the ground. The video shows Mr. Duran immediately firing at Airman Fortson when he opens the door. After Airman Fortson collapses, the deputy yells, “Drop the gun!”

A lawyer for Mr. Duran, John Whitaker, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Airman Fortson’s family and their lawyers, including Ben Crump, who has represented the family of George Floyd, have insisted that the deputy went to the wrong apartment.

It remains unclear why the worker at the complex directed Mr. Duran to Airman Fortson’s home. The sheriff’s office said on Friday that the worker had told Mr. Duran about “recent unreported disturbances at or around the same apartment.”

The internal affairs investigation by the sheriff’s office is separate from the criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is ongoing.

Mr. Crump said in a statement on Friday that Mr. Duran’s firing was a step forward but not full justice for the airman’s family.

“The actions of this deputy were not just negligent, they were criminal,” Mr. Crump said.

Mr. Crump released separate footage this month that he said Mr. Fortson’s girlfriend had recorded while on FaceTime with the airman that day. The footage begins moments after Mr. Fortson was shot. He is heard heaving and says, “I can’t breathe.”

Airman Fortson’s mother said in a news conference this month that her son was known as Mr. Make It Happen, that he had loved his younger siblings and that he had joined the military to help his family get ahead.

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