FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward Sheriff's Office deputy charged with manslaughter in the 2013 fatal shooting of a man who was carrying an air rifle appeared Monday morning in court, where a crowd of law enforcement officers from all over South Florida showed up to support him.
"That could be me tomorrow," a BSO deputy, who did not want to be identified, told Local 10 News outside the courtroom. "
An attorney for Deputy Peter Peraza said he had a question about the grand jury process and asked a Broward County judge to preserve the testimony for the time being. The judge granted the request.
"The daughter of a grand juror was arrested by a BSO deputy," attorney Eric Schwartzreich said. "My client is a BSO deputy. If that's the case, I don't believe there's any way, any chance, that it should have been allowed that that grand juror should have been able to sit on this grand jury to make a determination as to whether or not my client committed manslaughter."
Peraza is accused of shooting Jermaine McBean on July 31, 2013, outside McBean's apartment complex. McBean was carrying an unloaded Winchester air rifle.
A federal lawsuit filed against Broward County, Sheriff Scott Israel and Peraza claims that McBean could not hear deputies' commands to drop the gun because he was listening to music with earbuds.
McBean family's attorney, David Schoen, claims that the BSO told the family that they found the earbuds in McBean's pocket. He also told Local 10 News in an email Monday that the law enforcement officials who showed up to court to support Peraza were dishonoring their badge.
"Law enforcement officers across the country come to work every day of the week to protect and serve us. They are our heroes," Schoen said. "They uphold the oath they took to enforce the law, fairly and evenly across the board. To the extent Broward County Sheriff's Office deputies answer the call of their union leader and show up in force in court at the proceedings of Deputy Peraza, charged with the homicide of Jermaine McBean, a law abiding 33-year-old African-American engineer and citizen of Broward County, intending to send a message that the duly returned indictment somehow is not valid and to intimidate the state attorney or influence potential jurors or continue to speak out with a false narrative about the homicide of Jermaine McBean, they dishonor their badge and their oath of office and their actions should be decried by the sheriff and by every good and decent law enforcement professional."
Social activists also told Local 10 News that the shooting qualifies as police brutality.
"What we have here is a man who was walking down the streets with a rifle who later pointed it at a deputy," Schwartzreich said. "My client was doing his job. Nothing more and nothing less."
Peraza was a 12-year veteran at the time of the shooting.
Israel said he suspended Peraza without pay pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
Peraza faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted of manslaughter with a firearm. His arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 6.