Commentary: Killing of Black Airman linked to no police accountability

By: Naba’a Muhammad, StraightWords.com

 

The tears and cries of Chantemekki Fortson were heartbreaking as she spoke of her son, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Roger Fortson, shot to death by an Okaloosa County, Fla., sheriff’s deputy. His family and attorneys say deputies went to the wrong apartment responding to reports of a disturbance.

Through her tears came a sense of pride in her son and demand that law enforcement “tell the truth.” End the lie a deputy killed Roger in self defense, they said.  Atty. Ben Crump, who has represented many victims of unjust police shootings and killings, said, “Roger was one of the good guys.”

Roger was shot to death May 3 in his apartment. Media didn’t even cover the death because the sheriff’s department framed it as an officer involved shooting with an armed offender, said the attorney. 

The family and lawyers say Roger was on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend, responded to an aggressive knock at the door, heard no answer. 

He looked out of the peephole and could see nothing like it was being covered. He retrieved his legal weapon, went back to the door, opened it with his gun pointed down by his side. In seconds, a deputy at the door fired fatal shots and then shouted twice, “Drop the gun!”

Roger, 23, was a caretaker and provider for his mother and “Mr. Make It Happen” for his 10 year old sister, Harmony, and 16 year old brother, Andre. His mission to give them good lives ended as six bullets were pumped into his body. 

Besides violations of American law and tradition, especially in Florida, where the home and right to defend the home are considered sacred, there is an old underlying problem: Lack of accountability for police. 

Gun ownership used to be rare and law enforcement could always claim fear for their lives at seeing a weapon. They could come out guns blazing and get away with it. Those days are gone—or they should be. The Supreme Court has essentially upheld the right for Americans to bear arms with few restrictions. On April 3, 2023, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law allowing Floridians to carry weapons without permits, no background checks and no training. 

As The Trace noted: “With DeSantis’s signature, permitless carry is now the law in more than half of the country. Florida, with a population of 23 million, is the third-largest state in the country and the second-largest to enact permitless carry.”

“Like most permitless carry laws, Florida’s will allow people to carry concealed guns in most public spaces. Some people will still be barred from carrying a gun, including those who are otherwise prohibited from possessing guns under state or federal law, including for a previous felony or domestic violence conviction.”

“Permitless carry, or constitutional carry, as proponents refer to it, has been a top priority of pro-gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. They argue that the Constitution affords Americans the right to carry a gun in public without a government-issued permit, and that allowing more people to carry concealed weapons serves as a deterrent to crime,” The Trace reported. 

“Floridians across the state are going to be less safe because of this bill,” said Samantha Barrios, Florida state director of the gun reform group Giffords, when the law was enacted. 

“Fistfights will now turn into gunfights,” she predicted.

She may have never dreamed permitless carry would bring the threat of death from over aggressive law enforcement—which has a propensity to quickly shoot and kill Black people. 

According to Statistica.com, “Sadly, the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 178 civilians having been shot, 32 of whom were Black, as of March 5, 2024. In 2023, there were 1,163 fatal police shootings. Additionally, the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity, standing at 6 fatal shootings per million of the population per year between 2015 and March 2024.”

Police officers can no longer be allowed to shoot suddenly and with impunity as the country embraces and expands the right to carry weapons. For far too long there have been almost no controls on police behavior. Even the ability to fire officers has been limited. And there have been few punishments for accidental, reckless and even murderous acts.

Saying police officers have hard jobs and make split second decisions is no excuse. These factors come with the job and time after time we have seen officers violate policy, shut down body cams, lie on reports and get away with it.

With U.S. citizens told having a weapon is their right, the legal possession of weapons naturally grows. Can cops be allowed continued “oops” moments that especially take Black lives?

“The second amendment applied to Roger too and police have to know that, that the second amendment applies to all citizens so they should be trained to deal with that especially when they are coming into someone’s home, especially if it’s with a measure of force,” said Atty. Crump May 10 at a press conference. The second amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.

How many more deaths like Roger’s must we see? Politicians, prosecutors, and judges need to understand that it’s a new day that demands change. Stop protecting law enforcement actions that are wrong, negligent and deadly. 

Consider a few Black horror stories: 

Atatiana Jefferson 

In Ft. Worth, Texas, Atatiana Jefferson, a 28 year old Black woman, and her nephew were playing video games in 2019. The doors to her home were opened because burgers had been  burned. White officers answered a nonemergency call about an open door. They didn’t identify themselves and went into her backyard looking around. Jefferson grabbed her legal gun hearing intruders. An officer shouted to her to show her hands. In seconds, he fired a shot through a window killing her. 

Breonna Taylor

In Louisville, Ky., cops raided the wrong apartment in 2020 on a faulty drug warrant and the person they sought was already in custody. Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend fired one shot after the door was kicked in. An officer was hit. Cops responded with a hail of bullets killing 26 year old Breonna. Boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who was wracked by fear, heard hard knocking but heard no one identify themselves as police.

Eboni Pouncy

On Feb. 3, Eboni Pouncy, was at a friend’s home in Houston. They had forgotten the house key and had to force their way inside the apartment. Eboni had her legal weapon with her. Houston police officers showed up and shot Eboni five times through a window. Police said they thought there had been a break in.

Naba’a Muhammad, award winning Final Call editor, is host of “Straight Words With Naba’a Richard Muhammad, Bj Murphy, and James G. Muhammad,” which airs live Tuesdays, 9 p.m. to 12 a.m Central Time, on WVON AM 1690 Black Talk Radio Chicago and is livestreamed at the iHeart Radio app and WVON.com. Get more of his writing and content at straightwords.com.

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