FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – An appellate court has upheld the dismissal of a manslaughter charge against a suspended Broward Sheriff's Office deputy who fatally shot a black man who he said pointed an air rifle at him.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed Wednesday with a circuit judge who dismissed a manslaughter charge last year against Deputy Peter Peraza under Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law.
"This case is a victory for Deputy Peraza, law enforcement and the stand your ground law," Peraza's attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, said. "There was another case from another jurisdiction that said during the course of an arrest, an officer should not have been able to use stand your ground, they should've used the law enforcement officers statute, which is a separate statute."
Peraza was the first Florida law enforcement officer charged for an on-duty shooting in 30 years.
State prosecutors wanted to try the 39-year-old deputy before a jury, but the appellate court disagreed.
"We conclude the circuit court's findings of fact are supported by competent substantial evidence," the order said.
Peraza shot Jermaine McBean, 33, in 2013 after 911 callers reported seeing the man carrying a rifle down a busy street. Peraza is a white Hispanic.
The deputy testified last year in a "stand your ground" hearing, saying that he feared for his life when he fatally shot McBean.
"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."
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 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.
Prosecutors would not comment on the ruling, but the Broward State Attorney's Office said in a statement, in part: "The Fourth District Court of Appeals ruling is inconsistent with the Second District Court of Appeals that ruled that a police officer is not entitled to claim Stand your Ground. The Fourth District Court of Appeals has referred the conflict to the Florida Supreme Court."
BSO spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion said as of Wednesday, Peraza has been placed on restricted duty pending the conclusion of internal reviews.
Prior to the ruling, Peraza was suspended with pay since July 2016.