Correction, December 22: An earlier version of this story misstated the year of McBean's death as 2011, McBean's age as 38, and the date of his arraignment as January 2. The facts have been corrected below.
Original story, December 21: Peter Peraza, the first Broward law enforcement officer indicted for killing a civilian in 35 years, emerged from a courtroom just after 10 a.m. Monday to a round of applause. For a second, Peraza, who was attending an emergency hearing to preserve the grand jury testimony that led to his indictment, stood and surveyed the crowd – at least 30 Broward County Police officers had shown up to pack the courtroom in an effort to show both Peraza and the public at large that they would not let one of their own go down without a fight.
Earlier this month, a grand jury charged Peraza, age 37, with manslaughter in the 2013 killing of Jermaine McBean, a 33-year-old computer engineer living in Oakland Park. After a number of residents living in McBean's apartment complex called 911 to report that McBean had been walking through the property openly carrying a rifle, cops arrived and told him to put down the weapon. Peraza says McBean, instead, aimed the rifle directly at him, which left him no choice but to shoot and kill McBean. McBean's gun would later be identified as an air rifle.
Police say they found a pair of earbuds in McBean's pocket after he was killed. After a photograph of McBean lying dead on the ground with earbuds in his ears surfaced online earlier this year, it raised the possibility both that McBean could not hear the officers shouting at him and that someone had tampered with McBean's body after he died. As a result, a groundswell of local activists has raised concerns about the shooting. The McBean family is suing both Peraza and the Broward Sheriff's Department in federal court.
On December 16, Peraza's lawyer, Eric Schwartzreich, filed motions to preserve the grand jury evidence and 911 calls that led to his client's indictment. Broward County Circuit Court Judge Michael Usan approved those motions in court today.
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Schwartzreich, speaking with New Times, said his next step will be to trawl through the preserved documents to find out exactly what may have led to his client's indictment. He said he believed Peraza was charged not for the events themselves but because of “issues in today's climate” when it comes to law enforcement. “This is the wrong test case,” he said. “This was not like Chicago, where a ton of bullets were fired. This was the first and only time my client fired his weapon in the line of duty.”
Amid the shuffle, three representatives associated with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, stood quietly outside the courtroom during the proceedings, unable to enter due to the crowd. "We heard they were going to pack the courtroom," group member Jasmen Rogers said. "We just wanted to be here to support the family of Jermaine McBean, too."
On Friday, Broward Sheriff's Deputies Association President Jeffrey Bell told New Times his union was hoping to pack the courtroom to publicly throw its support behind Peraza – though turnout may have been half that number, the courtroom was packed once proceedings began at 9:30 today. “We got your back, Deputy Peraza!” a woman yelled when Peraza emerged.
Peraza is set for a formal arraignment on January 6. Following today's hearing, Schwartzreich told reporters that his client will plead not guilty.