FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward County judge has dismissed a manslaughter charge against suspended Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Peter Peraza.
Judge Michael Usan on Wednesday granted Peraza's "stand your ground" motion in the fatal shooting of Jermaine McBean.
"This is a slap in the face to the grand jury and the people of Broward County," the McBean family's attorney, David Schoen, said.
McBean's brother told Local 10 News that this case needs to go to trial.
“We are absolutely devastated. This is a complete miscarriage of justice and a travesty. A judge (being) able to throw out a trial when a grand jury for Broward County specifically decided to indict is a huge injustice," Andrew McBean said. "The case illustrates corruption in the system. At the end of the day, when we have a case where civilian eyewitness accounts completely undeniably go against the accounts of the officers, this case should have been pushed to trial. We have eyewitnesses that state Jermaine never pointed the toy air rifle at officers. It's not an easy thing to re-live this loss over and over again. This case needs to go to trial."
Prosecutors said they will appeal the judge's decision.
"While we respect the court's decision, we disagree with its conclusion," Broward County state attorney's office spokesman Ron Ishoy said in a statement. "We believe, based upon an appellate court decision, that a law enforcement officer is not entitled to a dismissal of the charge based upon the 'stand your ground' law. While there is conflicting evidence, we feel a jury should resolve those conflicts. We believe that the facts of the case do not support that this was a justifiable shooting. At this moment, our thoughts go out to the family of the late Mr. McBean."
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel also released a statement after the ruling was handed down, calling the incident a tragedy no matter what happens in court.
"A life was lost, and this is a tragedy no matter how you look at it," Israel said. "As sheriff, I was elected to enforce laws and keep our citizens safe. I am not a lawyer. I am not a judge and I don't make legal decisions. I pray for God to comfort all those affected and for our community to begin to heal and find peace."
Peraza, 37, testified last month in a stand your ground hearing, saying that he feared for his life in July 2013 when he shot McBean, 33, who was carrying an unloaded air rifle.
"He's going to kill me," Peraza said he was thinking when he was confronted by McBean. "He's going to kill somebody."
Peraza described the events that prompted him to shoot and kill McBean in an Oakland Park apartment complex. Peraza testified that McBean turned and pointed the gun at him and his fellow deputies.
"My focus is now solely on the rifle and his hands," Peraza said. "His hands are kind of draped over the rifle."
Peraza's attorney contended that the deputy shot McBean in self-defense.
"Mr. McBean was walking down our streets and pointed a firearm at Deputy Peraza," Eric Schwartzreich said. "There never should have been an indictment, and today he has been cleared, and this is an important case for all of law enforcement in our communities, so they can go out there and protect us and not be afraid to do their jobs."
The McBean family insists that McBean never pointed the rifle at the deputy and likely couldn't hear deputies' commands to drop the gun because he was wearing earbuds.
A witness at the scene told Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman that he never saw McBean point the rifle at anyone.
Peraza would have faced up to 30 years in prison if he had been convicted of manslaughter.
Schwartzreich said Peraza has every intention of getting his job back.
"We are very pleased at the decision handed down by Judge Usan this morning," Broward County Police Benevolent Association president Jeff Marano said in a statement. "All we asked was that he follow the rule of law, and he did. We want to thank PBA attorneys Eric Schwartzreich and Anthony Bruno, and their team of investigators, for the aggressive, vigorous defense of Deputy Peraza. We also want to thank our membership for their emotional and monetary support of Deputy Peraza and his family during this very difficult time. We have said from the outset this was a justifiable shooting, and the judge's ruling confirms that fact."