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The Silence of Ron DeSantis Speaks Volumes

The Silence of Ron DeSantis Speaks Volumes

By Jeff Charles

Why Is Ron DeSantis Silent on Roger Forston’s Death?

It has been weeks since a Florida police officer gunned down U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Roger Fortson in his own home. He was killed on May 3 in his off-base residence in Fort Walton Beach. He had been serving as a Special Missions Aviator. His death garnered national attention and elicited outrage at the actions of the officer who killed him.

Democratic and Republican politicians and media figures have expressed sympathy with Fortson’s family and criticized the actions of the overzealous officer who ended his life. Yet, one high-profile individual has remained silent on the matter: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Mistaken Identity and Lethal Force

The incident unfolded when a sheriff’s deputy who has not yet been identified responded to a domestic violence call at the Chez Elan apartment complex. Bodycam footage appears to show an employee at the complex directing him to Fortson’s residence, which was the wrong apartment.

The officer knocked on Fortson’s door multiple times and identified himself as law enforcement. However, it appears the airman did not hear him. He had been on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend at the time. He asked who was at the door but got no response. The officer had moved away from the peephole so Fortson could not see him. The airman grabbed his handgun and answered the door, holding the firearm at his side pointed toward the ground. The deputy immediately opened fire, hitting Fortson six times. The victim was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Fortson never fired a round. Was one bullet not sufficient force from the officer? Two? Three? Why did the officer feel the need to discharge his weapon six times?

The incident is currently being investigated by the Florida Division of Law Enforcement. Meanwhile, Forton’s funeral was held on Friday. Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing his family, told the gathering:

We will remember him for the American patriot he was.

Political Response

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was one of several conservative figures who responded to Fortson’s death. In a post on X, he wrote, “The killing of Airman Roger Fortson in my community continues to be a source of deep sadness” and said he “did not deserve to die.”

“He is an American Patriot for serving in our military and should be remembered as such – with no stain on his reputation whatsoever,” Gaetz continued.

May God bring some peace to all who loved Roger as the important work ahead continues.

This raises an important question: Where is Governor DeSantis?

When a racist terrorist murdered Black Floridians in Jacksonville, the governor showed up at the scene to give remarks and announce financial support for security at Edward Waters University, a historically black college near the store where the attack took place. He called the assailant a “major league scumbag” and vowed that Florida’s government is “not going to let people be targeted based on their race.”

So what is the difference between Forston’s killing and the victims at the store?  After all, DeSantis, like Fortson, was a member of the armed services. He also claims to support the Second Amendment, an issue that has played into the discussions over the nature of Fortson’s killing. DeSantis clearly believed it was important to comment on the Jacksonville mass shooting, but not on the death of a service member at the hands of a police officer.

While mindreading is impossible, reading the political tea leaves makes it easier to speculate as to why DeSantis is keeping his mouth shut on Fortson’s killing. For starters, it is worth noting that the matter is still under investigation. He may be avoiding commenting on the issue because he might be accused of influencing potential legal proceedings.

However, this theory does not hold water considering that commenting doesn’t necessarily mean opining on the officer’s actions. Indeed, Gaetz did not condemn the officer, he simply expressed sadness and empathy for Fortson’s family. The governor could have approached it in the same manner.

The best explanation for DeSantis’ silence is what it always is: Politics. Over the past year, the governor has incessantly pounded the “law and order” drum just like many of his Republican comrades. He has expressed undying support for law enforcement on multiple occasions – especially during the George Floyd protests.

DeSantis, like most high-profile Republicans, is more concerned with protecting law enforcement than the rights of the people many of them abuse. It is one of the many talking points they use to appeal to their voting base. Just recently, the governor signed into law a bill that will limit the ability of bystanders to record officers while they interact with members of the public.

It appears likely that the governor believes that by even showing sympathy for Fortson’s death, he could alienate those who have been supporting him. This could hamper his future political aspirations. He may not have emerged victorious during the presidential primaries this time around, but there is little doubt that he plans to take another shot at the Oval Office sometime in the future.

Limited Government and Law Enforcement

This is the problem with most Republican politicians and even large swaths of the conservative movement. These people constantly preach about the value of limited government and addressing government corruption. Yet, there is at least one part of government to which this principle does not apply: Law enforcement.

When it comes to the police, it seems the “limited government” principles of Republicans are tossed out of the window. While there has been a shift in attitudes toward police among conservatives, the “Back the Blue No Matter What They Do” mindset is still very much present on the right. In Roger Fortson’s case, several conservatives criticized the officer’s handling of the situation, but plenty still defended him.

The “Back the Blue” mindset prevents folks like DeSantis from so much as displaying a sense of humanity toward an American citizen if they lose their life to police violence.

Beyond the political issue, there is also the likely possibility that he simply does not care. From his point of view, if commenting on Fortson’s death won’t win him political points, then there is no point for him to bother with such a trifling matter. Unfortunately for the GOP, this attitude is one of several reasons why it struggles to attract racial minorities.

Former President Donald Trump stands to significantly increase his support among Black voters, according to recent polling. However, when DeSantis won reelection in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial election, he pulled only about 13 percent of Black voters. His approach to racial matters could decrease Black support —  especially on a national scale.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that as long as Republicans value government officers with badges over Black lives, they will continue alienating this demographic. 

Todd Davis

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