Broward News

Broward Cops to Pack Courtroom Today to Support Officer Peter Peraza

The Broward Sherrif’s Office Deputies Association has sent out text messages, email alerts, and social media posts, asking off-duty officers to come to the Broward County courthouse Monday morning for a hearing in the case of Deputy Peter Peraza, the first Broward Police officer indicted for killing a civilian in 35 years. Organizers are hoping to "pack the courtroom" in support of the deputy, Jeffrey Bell, president of the union, told New Times. The union had T-shirts made that say "We Support Peter Peraza." 

The case is controversial, with some saying it's yet another instance of police using excessive force and killing an unarmed black man and others arguing that the officer had reason to fear for his life. 

A grand jury charged Peraza with manslaughter earlier this month in the 2013 killing of Jermaine McBean, a 33-year-old computer engineer, in Oakland Park. Callers to 911 reported that McBean had been walking through an apartment complex holding a rifle. The gun turned out to be an air rifle.

Peraza said in a videotaped statement that he had ordered McBean to put down the weapon but that instead McBean turned toward the police and began aiming the rifle at them. Peraza felt his life was threatened at the time, so he shot and killed McBean. Peraza was later given a bravery award for his conduct during the shooting.

A pair of earbuds was inside McBean’s pocket when his body was at the hospital. But earlier this year, a photograph surfaced of McBean lying dead on the ground with earbuds still in his ears, raising the possibility that McBean was unable to hear police shouting at him and that someone may have moved the earbuds from his ears to his pockets after he was killed.

Additionally, one of the 911 callers, Michael Russell McCarthy, later told NBC News that McBean "couldn't have fired that gun from the position he was in." McBean’s family is now suing Peraza and the sheriff’s department in federal court, and local activists — including leaders of the local #BlackLivesMatter movement — have demanded that Peraza be charged in the killing.

Peraza's attorneys requested an emergency hearing to preserve the grand jury proceedings. That hearing is scheduled for 9:30 this morning. Bell, head of the police union, says he’s hoping roughly 100 deputies show up to support Peraza. “We’re trying to do everything we can to show the deputy we stand behind him,” Bell said.

An organizer with Black Lives Matter Broward said the group was aware of the development.