Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward statement on BSO Deputy Peter Peraza’s historic indictment, read at press conference, Monday, December 14, 2015)
We want to thank you all for being here and for giving this case its due attention. Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward praises and affirms our agreement with the grand jury’s decision to indict former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Peter Peraza, which was announced this past Friday morning. It’s an historic moment in Broward County where, through 168 grand juries, we hadn’t seen a single indictment of a law enforcement officer for a fatal shooting of a civilian in 35 years. While this record is shameful, today we applaud the grand jury for doing the right thing.
We look forward to the trial because we know the facts of the case, which all point to former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Peraza’s guilt in the fatal shooting of Jermaine McBean. We’re confident that any reasonable jury will convict him on the charge he’s facing, First Degree Felony Manslaughter with a firearm, and will send him to prison for a long time.
Peter Peraza’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, is now promoting a dishonest narrative to the local media that many of you represent. We will counter that narrative today with the the truth – the best antidote to a lie.
Mr. Schwartzreich has told media that Peter Peraza was “protecting the community” and “protecting other deputies” when he killed Jermaine, who we all know was carrying an unloaded air gun behind his neck. Schwartzreich said “We cannot Monday morning quarterback our officers” and that doing so will have a “chilling effect” and cause officers to second-guess themselves.
But the truth is that after years, centuries really, of Black life being treated as worthless by law enforcement here and all over the country, after Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Israel Hernandez, Orlando Barlow, Kimani Gray, Aaron Campbell, Ramarley Graham, Kendrec McDade, Timothy Russell, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Eric Garner, and the list goes on and on, Peter Peraza pulled the trigger without any second guessing. There was not, nor has there been, any chilling effect on Peter Peraza or law enforcement in general, rather the opposite is true. Young Black men and women in this county and in our nation leave their homes each morning not knowing whether they’ll ever be returning home.
We also note that the other two officers who were with Peraza – Sgt. Richard LaCerra and Lt. Brad Ostroff, both seasoned BSO veterans – did not fire even though they had their guns drawn. These two officers would have been first in the line of fire IF Jermaine had pointed his non-lethal gun at them. They didn’t fire because Jermaine McBean never pointed his unloaded air rifle at them or at anyone. This fact is attested to by Michael McCarthy, one of the 911 callers who witnessed the shooting, and is a man who regrets the call he made that day.
We also ask why Jermaine McBean, who loved life according to all who knew him, would point an unloaded non-lethal gun at armed officers. The fact is that he wouldn’t. And that he didn’t.
There is no Monday morning quarterbacking going on here. Rather, based on the evidence, the former deputy and his cohort are being held accountable. To suggest that accountability from law enforcement is unjustified in this case, or any other, evokes a kind of totalitarianism which we would go to any length to oppose.
Finally, we call out Sheriff Scott Israel, who we’ve implored for months in media and by petition to rescind the unethical awards for bravery that he gave to Peraza and LaCerra. We also had demanded these officers be put on administrative leave based on what we and the general public perceive to be an attempted cover-up of the evidence in this case. It’s beyond unacceptable that it took an indictment to get Peter Peraza removed from duty. Today we reiterate our demand that Sgt. Richard LaCerra also be removed from duty, and that the Gold Cross Awards for bravery, both his and Peraza’s, be rescinded.