A Man of Character: End of Watch – The Murder of Okaloosa County Deputy Anthony Forgione, July 22, 2008

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From the book, “Some Gave All,” available soon on Amazon

A career in law enforcement is not for everyone. As a matter of fact, it’s not for most people. It requires tenacity, self-discipline, and an almost constant state of awareness, even while off duty. Unlike cops in the movies, most of the time is spent without all the action. But if someone wants to serve the community, law enforcement certainly does that, for good or for bad.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida has long been the icon for the typical beach destination. It is a beautiful town. Tony Forgione was born there on August 21, 1974. His family soon moved to panhandle of the state, in Niceville. He graduated from Niceville High School in 1992. Five years later, he married Jessica Martin, the love of his life.

Tony had a desire to give back to his community, so he became a police officer in the City of Fort Walton, thirteen miles from Niceville. He certainly proved himself there. In 2005, he began working as a deputy sheriff when he was hired by Okaloosa Sheriff Charlie Morris. 

Tony was a cop’s cop. He was always there for his law enforcement brothers, even in the worst times. He soon became a member of the SWAT team, giving him the opportunity to serve at another level. That is what he was called to do on that fateful day fifteen years ago – July 22, 2008.

Mark Rohlman was an intelligent business owner, but he had also recently been ordered by a circuit judge to undergo a mental evaluation. The court order didn’t, however, give officers the authority to detain Rohlman, who left the facility after a deputy dropped him off. But because of the court order, they picked him up again and dropped him off again at the mental health center, Bridgeway Center. Rohlman became irrational and violent and left again.

Armed with a shotgun, he barricaded himself in his childhood home in Fort Walton Beach. The SWAT team was called and responded – Tony included. As is normal, part of the process with barricaded persons is to negotiate so they can surrender without injury to anyone. After repeated attempts to talk to Rohlman saw no success, the SWAT commander made the decision to enter the house. Was he conscious? Injured? Still there? They didn’t know.

Somebody had to go in to find out. Tony was in the lead. Rohlman was in there. He had a 12-gauge shotgun ready for the first officer – Tony. As the team came in, Rohlman shot him, then shot himself.

The SWAT team was shocked. Tony’s friends, family, and especially Jessica and their two beautiful daughters were devastated. Their lives would never be the same. The Sheriff’s Office and the community mourned. One of their champions was lost forever.

Tony, Jessica, and the girls attended the First Assembly of God Church in Niceville. They were regulars there. Tony even worked with the Royal Rangers, a Christian boys’ mentoring program that operated at the church. Pastor Phil Daniels was not only his shepherd, but he was Tony’s friend. Much like his law enforcement family, Tony’s church family was devastated. They knew a side of him that no one else knew – his relationship with his wife and daughters, his desire to mentor the boys, and his spiritual side. His smiling face, his warm greeting, and his influence were now gone forever.

The funeral was held on July 28, 2008. Members of the department’s volunteer honor guard stood watch over their fallen comrade. Pastor Daniels delivered a heartfelt and genuine message, and Sheriff Morris gave a moving eulogy. At the cemetery came the 21-gun salute, TAPS on the bugle, and the folding of the flag. It was presented to Jessica, Caitlin, and Cassie. It was their gift from a grateful Okaloosa County for lending their leader to them. Not enough. It wouldn’t bring him back.

In 2009, the Florida House of Representatives introduced, and the Florida Senate approved the Mental Illness/Deputy Anthony Forgione Act. The law now requires a law enforcement agency that transports persons to a receiving facility to have a memorandum of understanding with the facility. Requires that custody of a person who is transported to a receiving or treatment facility be relinquished to a responsible person at the facility. It specifies that a psychiatric examination by certain personnel be conducted face-to-face, in person, or by electronic means, etc.

Every year since 2009, the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office has held the area’s annual SWAT competition event in Tony’s honor.

Subsequent to Tony’s death, the Shalimar Bridge on State Road 85 South (Eglin Parkway) over Garnier’s Bayou was named “Deputies Tony Forgione and Bill Myers Memorial Bridge” by the 2018 Florida Legislature.

Anthony Forgione is an example of a man who gave his all to serve his community. He was certainly a man of talent and intelligence, but more than that, he was a man of character.


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