Florida Sheriff Defends Deputy Who Killed a Man Holding Sidearm in His Own Home


Okaloosa County Florida is located in the Florida panhandle between Panama City and Pensacola. Its Sheriff’s Office has 325 deputies serving a population of about 200,000. 


In the last seven months, Okaloosa deputies have made the news (and flooded social media) for deputy-initiated shootings. The first shooting in November 2023 was nothing short of comical and, fortunately, didn’t result in a fatality. In fact, no one was even injured. 

On the morning of November 12, 2023, three deputies made a call for service from Ms. Celestiana Lopez who said “Her boyfriend, Mr. Marquis Jackson, was refusing to return her vehicle and had been calling and texting her threats.”

The deputies arrested Jackson, handcuffed him, searched him, and put him in the back of Deputy Jesse Hernandez’s patrol car. Jackson wasn’t violent. He was compliant. Two deputies spoke to Lopez while Hernandez stood beside his patrol car. Hernandez was minutes away from becoming infamous as “Acorn Cop.” 


While Jackson sat quietly in the back of the vehicle, Hernandez started to walk to the back of his car. An acorn dropped from an overhanging oak and bounced off the roof of the car. Hernandez immediately and repeatedly yelled, “SHOTS FIRED! SHOTS FIRED!” He mag-dumped on the car and, while reloading, claimed he had been shot. His sergeant, believing Hernandez and taking his word for “shots fired” from the patrol car, mag-dumped on the car as well. 

The only shots fired were by deputies. After the bodycam video was released, Hernandez was mocked by everyone for absurdly mistaking an acorn for “shots fired.” In a 44-page report, the sheriff rightfully cleared the sergeant for unloading on the car because she reasonably believed Deputy Hernandez, who claimed someone had not only shot at him but shot him. Hernandez’s actions were not reasonable and were an absurd reaction to an acorn hitting a car roof. He instantly became “Acorn Cop.” Fortunately, we can all laugh at this remarkable performance of incompetence at shooting and observation because the only one that ended up full of bullet holes was a cop car. 

On May 3, 2024, an Okaloosa deputy was again involved in an officer-initiated shooting, but this time, the deputy killed the man he was shooting at. The dead man, Roger Fortson, had done nothing wrong. He hadn’t been accused or arrested. He was in his own home and answered his door when the deputy knocked. The deputy, seeing Fortson holding a handgun below his waist, didn’t bother shouting any instructions; he just shot Fortson six times, killing him. 

The interpretation of “reasonable belief” of eminent harm is an open question. But it is an objective, not subjective, test. Even if the deputy thought Fortson was a threat but a reasonable cop wouldn’t, then it is legally “unreasonable.” Okaloosa’s sheriff adjudged the shooting “reasonable” under the circumstances. The Sheriff has a share of supporters on X (Twitter), but not many. Most cops and current military and defense lawyers like me see this as the product of inadequate training and unreasonable fear that resulted in a death. 


You can judge for yourself but I see no “reasonable belief” that Fortson was a threat. I see an overreaction. 

Fortson was holding a sidearm to his side. Most military special operators (current and retired) who I follow on X were appalled that anyone could justify this shooting. 

In Florida, the rules for using deadly force by a police officer sound simple

This case requires us to decide what constitutional standard governs a free citizen’s claim that law enforcement officials used excessive force in the course of making an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” of his person. We hold that such claims are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard, rather than under a substantive due process standard. (Graham v. Conner, 1989, p. 388) 

The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. (Graham v. Conner, 1989, p. 396) 

The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. (Graham v. Conner, 1989, p. 396 & 397)

That is a direct quote from the “Acorn Cop” report. The investigation found that shooting to be objectively absurd and an overreaction. It was “objectively unreasonable.” Fortson never raised his weapon. He held it down at his side. The deputy never said “drop it” before killing Fortsom. Fortson never presented an objective threat that would justify this killing. 

A former Air Force Special Operations Command officer named Scott Lacey was asked about the shooting. Lacey had served in the same command. He believes Fortson’s shooting wasn’t justified.


“When he just opens the door, sees him with a gun and unloads six rounds on the senior airman, to me that just screams unjust right away,” said Lacey, who spent time as an Arizona state trooper after leaving the military. “The airman didn’t raise his gun and showed no kind of hostile intent.”

A special operations officer on X who cannot reveal his identity because he’s on active duty lost patience with the “shoot first” mentality. 

Another unfortunate (and irrelevant) fact is that Fortson was black, and because he was black, his death caused the race-grifters and race vultures to descend. Ben Crump, one of the most loathsome race-hustlers in America, is ginning up race-based nonsense. This shooting isn’t about race. 

I support cops and recognize that they have a very dangerous job. But with that comes an obligation to have sufficient training and awareness. Taking a life is the last resort, not the first resort. Fortson is dead because a deputy’s first and deadly reaction to seeing a weapon was to kill the person holding it. 

Maybe this deputy doesn’t deserve jail but he shouldn’t have a job as a deputy sheriff. It seems to me that Okaloosa County has a vetting problem and it absolutely has a training problem. Qualifying on a range once a year isn’t enough. 

Just being ex-military doesn’t mean you are competent with a weapon or will be a competent cop. “Acorn Cop” was S.O. and a West Point Grad, but he never saw combat and clearly lacked adequate training (Report – page 12). He panicked, and someone could have died. On May 3rd, someone did die. Justifying that with a “shoot first” mentality doesn’t make it right and doesn’t make it “reasonable.” It was objectively a bad shooting, and it cost a man his life.   


The longer that Okaloosa County Sheriff blindly defends this shooting, the worse it will get.