Senior Airman Roger Fortson died May 3, 2024.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson died May 3, 2024. (U.S. Air Force)

An Air Force commander in Florida ordered all airmen of the 1st Special Operations Wing step down from their duties Monday to come together and grieve the death of a fellow airman who was shot and killed in his off-base apartment by a police officer.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, died May 3. A member of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office knocked on Fortson’s apartment door to investigate a call about a domestic dispute. Forston, a Black man who was home alone, answered the door holding a handgun pointed downward and the officer immediately shot him six times, according to video of the incident released by the sheriff’s office.

Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st Special Operations Wing and Hurlburt Field in Florida.

Col. Patrick Dierig, the wing commander, said Friday that the wing’s priorities are Fortson’s family, grieving airmen and the entire base, which is in the Florida Panhandle west of Fort Walton Beach.

“[Senior Airman] Fortson was a proven combat veteran and an incredible teammate. His loss is felt throughout the 4th Special Operations Squadron, the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, and the entirety of our wing,” Dierig said in a statement.

Tributes for Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, who was killed May 3, 2024.

Tributes for Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, who was killed May 3, 2024. (From the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page)

Monday’s stand-down is to allow members of the wing to focus inward through small group discussions to allow voices to be heard and connect with teammates, unit officials said Monday.

“Squadrons and work centers will have resources made available in order to have the difficult conversations, vent, cry, laugh, yell, and support each other,” the wing announced. “All voices matter, and Monday’s stand-down is intended to emphasize that down and into the units, across the formation.”

Hurlburt Field has more than 8,600 military personnel and about 4,300 civilians assigned to the base. The 1st Special Operations Wing is its largest unit, and one of five special operations wings in the active-duty Air Force. Its primary mission is to rapidly plan and execute contingency operations.

Fortson was originally from Atlanta and enlisted in the Air Force after high school, Ben Crump, an attorney hired by the family, told The Associated Press. The airman worked as a special missions aviator and loaded cannons on gunships during missions, Crump said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting and the State Attorney’s Office will also conduct an independent review, according to the sheriff’s office. The deputy involved in the shooting is on administrative leave.

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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