Despite the fact that a Florida sheriff’s deputy has been accused of tampering with evidence, lying under oath, and gunning down an innocent man holding an unloaded air rifle, Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan dismissed the criminal charges on Wednesday, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law as the deputy’s defense. Although witness statements, physical evidence, and the autopsy report do not corroborate the deputy’s version of events, Judge Usan joined Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel in blaming the innocent man for causing his own death.
On the afternoon of July 31, 2013, a 33-year-old computer engineer named Jermaine McBean was walking home after purchasing a Winchester Model 1000 Air Rifle from a local pawn shop. Uncertain whether McBean was balancing a real gun or a BB gun on his shoulders, witnesses called 911 to report the incident but admitted that McBean was not acting erratically or aggressively with it.
Deputies from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene and pulled up behind McBean, who was walking through his apartment complex with the unloaded air rifle balanced on his shoulders. Deputy Peter Peraza claims that McBean ignored several commands to drop the rifle before turning around and aiming the weapon at him and his fellow deputies.
Sgt. Richard LaCerra, who was also at the scene, told homicide investigators, “I thought at that point and time he was gonna swing and point the rifle at us. And the next thing I know there was gunshots.”
After Deputy Peraza fired three shots at McBean, Sgt. LaCerra recalled the dying man telling him, “It was just a BB gun.”
According to civilian witnesses, McBean never aimed his unloaded air rifle at the deputies. Results from his autopsy later revealed that McBean could not have been facing Peraza when the fatal shots were fired.
A nurse who lived nearby attempted to administer medical assistance to McBean, but officers refused to allow her to help the dying man. Angered at their callous attitude, the nurse took a photograph of McBean as he bled out on the sidewalk with two deputies standing over him with earbuds in McBean’s ears.
Under oath, Deputy Peraza repeatedly told investigators that McBean was not wearing earphones and there was no reason why McBean could not hear their commands to drop his weapon. But the nurse pointed out to the officers at the scene that McBean was wearing earbuds at the time of the shooting. After McBean’s family informed investigators that he always walked around listening to loud music through his earbuds, the homicide detective investigating McBean’s death told the family that the earbuds had been found inside his pocket, not in his ears.
Enraged that Deputy Peraza had repeatedly lied under oath and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office had tampered with evidence, the anonymous nurse distributed the photograph to media organizations showing that the deputies were involved in a cover-up to justify the shooting. After seeing the photo of her son wearing the earbuds, McBean’s mother, Jennifer Young told reporters, “I was highly upset. I said, ‘They lied to me. What else have they lied about?’”
While the shooting was still under investigation, Sheriff Israel awarded a bravery commendation to Deputy Peraza for heroically gunning down an unarmed man and possibly making false statements to cover up his mistake. After the photo of McBean emerged revealing Peraza’s lies, Sheriff Israel continued to defend his deputy while blaming McBean for causing his own death.
Arrested on December 11, 2015, Peraza was charged with manslaughter and faced up to 30 years in prison for killing McBean. Instead of focusing on the criminal accusations and mounting evidence against Peraza, Judge Usan accused McBean of provoking the attack due to his history of mental health conditions.
On Wednesday, Usan dismissed the charges against Peraza under the “Stand Your Ground” law. Although Peraza remains suspended, the deputy will reportedly receive back pay dating from his arrest in December.
“Jermaine died and police lied,” McBean’s brother, Andrew, said at a Broward Black Lives Matter meeting on Wednesday night. “Mistakes happen. Accidents happen. But cover-ups are planned.”