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Roger Fortson was unjustly killed by police. You cannot reform this.

Roger Fortson was unjustly killed by police. You cannot reform this.
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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

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Roger Fortson should still be alive today. 

The 23-year-old Black man from Atlanta was living his dream, serving his country as a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Hurlburt Field in Florida. 

He was the veritable “patriot” that fake patriots think they are. He had already been awarded a valor medal after he addressed an in-flight emergency, enabling his team to continue the mission they were on. 

He wanted to buy his mother a house, and on May 1, he called home to find out what his 10-year-old sister wanted for her birthday. 

By all accounts, he was doing everything he could to improve the circumstances of himself and his family.

That all came to an end Friday, May 3, when an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed him within two seconds of encountering Roger at the front door of his own home.

Deputies were originally dispatched to the apartment complex for a “disturbance” call, and they were directed to Fortson’s apartment by a neighbor who wasn’t actually sure where the noise was coming from. 

In its official statement, the sheriff’s department said the officer responded to a “disturbance in progress” and encountered an armed man. “The deputy shot the man, who later succumbed to his injuries.”

As usual, the body camera footage released on May 10, tells a different story. 

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The deputy is shown speaking to a woman who tells him she heard a disturbance two weeks ago and that there was another one that same day. She directs him to Fortson’s apartment.

The officer arrives at Fortson’s door and stands there for about 20 seconds before knocking. He does not identify himself when he knocks. He then walks a few feet away from the door and stands alongside the wall, facing the door. 

After waiting about 30 seconds and getting no answer, he knocks again, this time announcing that he’s with the sheriff’s department. He knocks a third time, again announcing he’s with the sheriff’s department. 

Fortson opens the door, and the deputy tells him, “Step back,” before immediately opening fire on him, shooting at least five times.

It is not until Fortson is already on the ground bleeding to death that the deputy yells, “Drop the gun!” twice. 

Fortson tells him twice that he doesn’t have the gun. 

In an interview with Democracy Now, the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, said Fortson was on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend, who has not been identified, when he heard a loud knock at his door. 

He asked who it was but did not hear anything in response. According to his girlfriend, Fortson went to look out of the peephole and didn’t see anyone, so he went to grab his gun before answering, thinking it could possibly be an intruder. 

From the deputy’s body camera footage, we can see that when Fortson opened the door, he had the gun at his side and pointed down at the ground — not at the officer. 

The only command the deputy uttered was “step back,” and considering he opened fire immediately after saying it, he didn’t even allow enough time for Fortson to hear, comprehend and respond to the command.

He shot him and killed him, showing little regard for anyone’s safety or human life in general. 

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He definitely didn’t care about the life of a Black man who was minding his own business and not bothering anyone.

There is no excuse for this. You cannot reform this. 

Fortson’s family as well as Crump claim the deputy was at the wrong door, and there was no disturbance in Roger’s home; he lived alone. 

It’s also worth reiterating that the deputy was there responding to a disturbance call of people yelling. 

Not gunshots. Not glass breaking. 

People yelling. 

The way police respond to otherwise innocuous situations and actively escalate them on their own should be a psychological and sociological study in real time.

What is the pathology behind taking every opportunity to exert your presumed “authority” over people and to use violence to “enforce” said “authority”?

What is the psychology behind not even doing the minimum amount of investigation or verification before acting on the presumption that the Black person is obviously wrong, doing something bad and posing a threat — and using that to execute (pun fully intended) extrajudicial justice?

How many more Rogert Fortsons and Botham Jeans and Breonna Taylors are we going to have before we can get anyone besides the Black people repeatedly crying and calling out these names to admit that there is something systemically and endemically wrong with law enforcement in America?

And while I told Fortson’s personal story at the beginning of this column, we shouldn’t have to offer up Black people as so-called “perfect victims” in order for their humanity to be validated and recognized.

Fortson was in his home, and he was well within his rights to answer his door with a firearm – especially in Florida, the “Stand Your Ground” capital of America. 

Remember, Florida is where George Zimmerman famously got away with killing Trayvon Martin – even after he was told not to follow or pursue Martin – because it was determined that he was within his right to have a gun and shoot Martin under the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Still, as I write this, I know there are going to be people responding and saying what Fortson should have done to stay alive because when it comes to Black victims, it’s always their fault and not the fault of the trigger-happy, overly aggressive supposed “trained professionals” who think everyone else should remain extremely calm under pressure while they – law enforcement – act scared of every little noise, sound, glint of light, and acorn. 

Yes, this is the same sheriff’s department from which a deputy got into a shootout with an acorn, endangering the life of yet another Black man.

You cannot reform this. 

You cannot reform this.

You cannot reform this. 

I could repeat that a million times, and it still wouldn’t be enough.

There’s an N.W.A. song that’s applicable here. 

I’mma leave it at that. 


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Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.





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