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Hundreds Attend Airman Roger Fortson's Funeral

Airman Roger Fortson with his little sister

Hundreds of Air Force members in dress blues joined Roger Fortson‘s family, friends, and others at a suburban Atlanta megachurch on Friday to pay their final respects to the Black senior airman, who was shot and killed in his Florida home earlier this month by a sheriff’s deputy.

People lined up well before the start of the service at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest to file past the open coffin and say their goodbyes to Fortson, who was shot six times by a deputy responding to a May 3 call about a possible domestic violence situation at Fortson’s apartment complex in the Florida Panhandle. He was 23.

Fortson’s face and upper body were visible in his Air Force uniform, with an American flag draped over the lower part of the coffin. After viewing the body, many mourners paused to hug one another.

“As you can see from the sea of Air Force blue in front of me, I am not alone in my admiration of Senior Airman Fortson,” Col. Patrick Dierig told mourners.

“We would like to take credit for making him great, but the truth is that he was great before he came to us,” said Dierig, who commands the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Air Force Base in Florida, where Fortson was stationed.

Fortson grew up in the Atlanta area before he joined the Air Force. He was a senior airman who served in overseas combat zones and was stationed at Hurlburt when the deputy killed him.

The funeral came a day after Fortson’s mother vowed to get justice for her son.

At a news conference held by the family and their lawyer, Ben Crump, Chantemekki Fortson spoke glowingly about how her son had always stayed on a positive path and had never been in trouble or shown signs of violence.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office was responding to a reported disturbance between a man and woman in the apartment building, and a responding deputy shot Fortson, who was Black, multiple times in the chest, according to police radio communications. When the deputy arrived, Fortson was seated at a table in his home; he was on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend, discussing Cinco de Mayo.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Thursday called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to release its findings on the police shooting of Fortson. 

“Senior Airman Fortson was a son, brother, friend, and patriot who should still be with his family today,” the CBC said in a statement. “He was an Air Medal recipient who served our nation honorably, and we are forever grateful for his heroism and service.”


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