Despite the fact that a witness said Jermaine McBean never pointed a gun at a South Florida deputy who ended up shooting and killing him, a Florida judge took the word of the deputy when he dismissed manslaughter charges against him on Wednesday, basing his decision on the state’s “stand your ground” law.
The decision means that Broward County sheriff’s deputy Peter Peraza will be spared a possible 30-year sentence.
At least for now because prosecutors plan to appeal the decision by Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Peraza is not the most reliable witness considering he and other deputies initially lied about the 2013 shooting, claiming McBean had his ear buds in his pocket after he was shot and killed when a photo that later emerged showed he was wearing them in his ears, indicating he was listening to music and did not hear commands from deputies to drop his gun.
The gun also turned out to be an unloaded air rifle that he had just purchased at a pawn shop.
However, witnesses who spotted McBean walking through an apartment complex with the rifle slung over his should called 911 – which is something we should refrain from doing unless we are absolutely certain it is an emergency.
Although three deputies had responded to the scene, Peraza is the only one who fired, later saying he shot to protect his fellow deputies.
One witness told NBC News in 2013 that he regrets calling 911 because Peraza shot and killed him without ever giving him a chance.
And another aspect of the police account is also being contradicted — by a man who called 911 in alarm when he saw McBean walking around with the air rifle but who also says McBean never pointed it at police or anyone else.
Michael Russell McCarthy, 58, told NBC News that McBean had the Winchester Model 1000 Air Rifle balanced on his shoulders behind his neck, with his hand over both ends, and was turning around to face police when one officer began shooting.
“He [McBean] couldn’t have fired that gun from the position he was in. There was no possible way of firing it and at the same time hitting something,” McCarthy said. “I kind of blame myself, because if I hadn’t called it might not have happened.”
Nevertheless, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office presented Peraza with an award for bravery for killing McBean less than a month after the shooting.
It took another two years for the photo to emerge because the woman who shot it said she feared retaliation by deputies.
The photo and witness testimony is what led a grand jury to indict Peraza in December 2015, which infuriated law enforcement officers across the country who have become accustomed to grand juries not indicting them for killing citizens.
Police and deputies showed their support by packing the courtroom during Peraza’s first appearance in what the South Florida Sun Sentinel called “a showing of brotherhood of the badge.”
But that’s what we would call a show of intimidation.