FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward Sheriff's Office deputy who fatally shot a man carrying an air rifle was entitled to use the state's "stand your ground" defense, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Deputy Peter Peraza was charged with manslaughter after the 2013 shooting death of Jermaine McBean in Oakland Park.
McBean was carrying an air rifle and ignored commands to drop it when Peraza shot the 33-year-old, who had a history of mental illness.
"He never should have been indicted and he was always entitled to use 'stand your ground,'" defense attorney Eric Schwartzreich, who represented Peraza, said of his client.
A trial judge allowed Peraza to use the defense and dismissed the charge. An appellate court upheld the decision.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said "law enforcement officers are eligible to assert 'stand your ground' immunity, even when the use of force occurred in the course of making a lawful arrest."
Peraza declined to speak about the ruling, but his attorney did.
"He was overwhelmed with emotion," Schwartzreich said.
A spokeswoman for the Broward County state attorney's office said in a statement Thursday that it has been opposed to the "stand your ground" law since it was enacted.
"While there was testimony from Deputy Peraza that he was in fear for his life, there was also witness testimony, as the Florida Supreme Court noted in its opinion, that 'McBean did not point the weapon at the deputies,'" Paula McMahon said. "A grand jury heard the evidence, found that it was not a justified shooting and chose to indict Deputy Peraza on a manslaughter charge. 'Stand your ground' is a bad law and it doesn't allow a trial jury to hear the evidence and make a decision."
Peraza, who was suspended without pay after being charged, has since returned to duty.
"He loves his job," Schwartzreich said.