A Florida grand jury has indicted Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Peter Peraza for manslaughter in connection with the 2013 shooting death of 33-year-old Jermaine McBean, a black man who was carrying an air rifle when he was shot.
Peraza, who turned himself in on Friday, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, according to Ron Ishoy, a spokesman for the Broward County state’s attorney’s office.
In a statement on Friday morning, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that Peraza has been suspended without pay.
“We respect the grand jury process…Now, the case will go forward in the courts and a jury will weigh all the evidence and render a verdict,” Israel said. “For everyone in this case – the McBean family, the Peraza family, the BSO family, everyone in our community – we want truth and justice to prevail.”
McBean was shot by Peraza after 911 callers reported seeing him carrying what appeared to be a real rifle down a busy street. The gun was an air rifle and his family contended that McBean was listening to music with earbuds and likely could not hear the shouted commands of police once they arrived.
Attorneys for McBean’s family have said the computer system engineer was carrying the unloaded pellet gun home from a pawn shop when he was shot and killed on July 31, 2013.
Police said that McBean refused several shouted commands to put down the pellet gun and pointed it at officers. Police also initially said McBean was not wearing headphones at the time of the shooting, but that they found a pair of earbuds in his pocket after he was taken to the hospital.
However, a photo of McBean moments after the shooting shows what appear to be earbud headphones in his ears as he lay on the ground after being shot.
“He couldn’t have fired that gun from the position he was in. There was no possible way of firing it and at the same time hitting something,” Michael Russell McCarthy, one of the people who called 911, told NBC News. McCarthy told also told NBC that McBean had been carrying the air rifle on his shoulders, had not pointed the weapon at anyone, and turned to face police when they opened fire.
“I kind of blame myself, because if I hadn’t called it might not have happened,” he said.
McBean’s death is one of several recent incidents in which officers have shot and killed a black man or boy carrying a toy weapon or air rifle.
No officers were charged in the August 2014 shooting of John Crawford, an Ohio man who had picked up a toy weapon from a display case in a Walmart and was carrying the merchandise around the store as he shopped. A caller told police Crawford had pointed the weapon at several customers — a claim later shown to be untrue by surveillance footage — and officers stormed the store and killed Crawford.
And a grand jury is still considering whether to charge the officers involved in the November 2014 death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed in Cleveland after a caller told police about a man waving a gun in a park.
Of the 917 fatal police shootings that have occurred so far in 2015, at least 31 of them involve a toy weapon.
Attorneys for Peraza and the McBean family could not be immediately reached for comment.