A Florida sheriff's deputy charged with manslaughter for the 2014 shooting of a man carrying an air rifle is claiming self-defense and seeking dismissal of the case.
A hearing began Monday to test whether suspended Broward Sheriff's deputy Peter Peraza can invoke the "Stand Your Ground" law in the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Jermaine McBean, who was black. The law says a person has no duty to retreat in the face of a potentially lethal threat.
"He signed up for this job and he was protecting the community and the innocent people that could've been shot," said Eric Schwartzreich, Peraza's attorney.
37-year-old Peraza, who is white, faces up to 30 years if convicted. If his motion prevails, there will be no trial and the manslaughter charge will be dismissed.
McBean's family claims he posed no danger and could not hear commands to drop the air rifle because he was listening to music with earbuds. His mother and brother claim a police coverup.
"Accidents happen, mistakes happen, coverups are planned. Simple as that," Andrew McBean said. "You're walking around with headphones, they magically end up in his pocket."
A witness picture shows McBean's body with what appears to be earbuds in his ears, with his brother claiming the music drowned out deputies' commands to drop the rifle.
In an interview with detectives, Peraza claims he didn't see earbuds, but did see McBean start to point the rifle at deputies. Peraza then shot and killed him.
In court, Peraza's attorney brought out two rifles, McBean's air rifle and a real one, with a detective testifying as to how similar they are.
BSO Supervisor Robert Drago, on the scene that night, said Peraza told him he shot in fear for his life, but Drago didn't report that until years later.
Florida vs. Deputy Peraza, a rarity for a state attorney to prosecute an officer for an on-duty shooting. If the judge determines it was not justified, this case will go to a full trial.