An AC-130U Gunship from the 4th Special Operations Squadron flies a local training mission on Jan. 27, 2011, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The AC-130U “Spooky” gunship is the primary weapon of Air Force Special Operations Command. Its primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. The U model is an upgraded version of the H and is equipped with side firing, trainable 25 mm, 40 mm, and 105 mm guns.

An airman who flew as a crewmember on AC-130 gunships died in a shooting with a sheriff’s deputy at an apartment complex near Hurlburt Field Sunday, sources on the base and in Florida told Task & Purpose.

Senior Airman Roger Fortson, 23, died in an “off-base incident at his residence,” according to a release from the 1st Special Operations Wing. Fortson was assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron on Hurlburt. An Air Force spokesperson told Task & Purpose Fortson was a Special Missions Aviator assigned to the squadron’s AC-130J gunships.

An Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy shot and killed an armed man on Friday, May 3, according to a post on the OCSO’s Facebook page posted over the weekend. Sources on Hurlburt told Task & Purpose that personnel on base had been told that Fortson was the man killed and a spokesperson for the OCSO confirmed that the incidents were “connected.”

According to the OCSO’s Facebook page, a deputy with the department encountered a man “armed with a gun” at an apartment complex on Racetrack Road late Friday afternoon, about five miles from the base that is home to Air Force Special Operations Command. The deputy was responding to a call for a “disturbance in progress.”

According to the sheriff’s department, the deputy encountered “a 23-year old man armed with a gun.” The deputy shot the man “in self-defense” after identifying himself as a law enforcement officer, the OCSO said.

Fortson entered active duty on Nov. 19, 2019.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron is one of nine flying squadrons in the 1st Special Operations Wing based at Hurlburt Field. The 4th is one of two squadrons that fly the AC-130 gunship. The 4th SOS currently flies AC-130J gunships which carries a crew of four officers and four enlisted crew members like Fortson, who are known as Special Mission Aviators. The crew fires the plane’s 30mm and 105mm guns at ground targets, along with GBU-39 bombs, AGM-114 hellfire and AGM-176 Griffin missiles, and the GBU-69 Small Glide Munition.

A November 2023 incident of an Okaloosa Sheriff’s deputy in an officer-involved shooting made national headlines. An Okaloosa deputy had arrested a man and put him in the rear of his own patrol car when the deputy heard a loud noise he believed was a gunshot. The deputy, a West Point graduate who had spent 10 years in the Army as a Special Forces officer, reacted by yelling “shots fired!” and “I’m hit!” and within seconds both he and a second deputy had shot at the car multiple times.

An investigation determined that the noise was an acorn falling from a tree and striking the car.

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