FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A show of support in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom for a Broward Sheriff’s deputy charged with killing a man who was walking down a street with an air rifle.READ MORE: Seminoles Suspend Sports Betting After Court Rulings
On Wednesday, over three dozen fellow deputies were in the hall and courtroom as Deputy Peter Peraza entered a plea of not guilty. There were also about six people representing Black Lives Matter.
A grand jury indicted Peraza, who is white, in the 2013 shooting death of Jermaine McBean, who is black.
Peraza shot McBean as he carried an unloaded air rifle in his Oakland Park neighborhood, heading home from the pawn shop where he bought it. At the time deputies said Peraza shot him when he ignored their commands to drop the gun and Sheriff Scott Israel said he pointed the rifle at them.
Witnesses however have said McBean did not point the gun at anyone and McBean’s lawyer has said he couldn’t hear the deputies’ orders because he was listening to music.
“There are witnesses at the scene that said they saw the headphones in his ear. There are witnesses at the scene that took pictures of him with the headphones in his ear,” said Jasmen Rogers with Black Lives Matter.
McBean’s family attorney said the ear buds will be key to the case.READ MORE: 23rd Annual 'A Home For The Holidays At The Grove' Comes To CBS On Sunday, December 5th
“Under oath, deputy Peraza was asked several times whether there were ear buds in Jermaine’s ears or whether there was anything obstructing his hearing and he said each time under oath, ‘no,no,no,no and no’ and specifically to the ear buds question. By the time that statement was taken, it was a week later. Everyone on that scene knew that Jermaine McBean was wearing ear buds,” said McBean family attorney David Schoen.
Peraza’s attorney said he was doing his job and there was a perceived threat.
“This isn’t a situation of an unarmed African American teenager. This is a situation of an armed male who is walking down our streets who according to the discovery was unhinged at the time,” said Attorney Eric Schwartzreich.
Peraza, who has been with the sheriff’s office for 14 years, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. He’s currently free on $25,000 bail and suspended without pay.
The union supports him.
“This is a tragedy that he’s even going through this process and that’s why we’re supporting him even though his own agency has stopped paying him. We’re supporting him and making sure his bills are paid, his kids are taken care of and he lives his lifestyle,” said PBA President Jeff Marano.
“Every time a cop does something bad, cops react and they rally around the cop. They’re here to protect and serve the public not to protect and serve themselves,” said Jeff Weinberger with Black Lives Matter Broward.MORE NEWS: Sharp Increase In Hospitalized Children With Covid Investigated In South Africa
Federal authorities are reportedly investigating the shooting for possible civil rights violations.