On July 31, 2013, Jermaine McBean was shot and killed by Deputy Peter Peraza while walking home from a pawn shop with a recently purchased airsoft rifle. Deputy Peraza claims that he was in fear of his life when he shot and killed McBean.
Since that time, numerous organizations, individuals, and his family have been seeking answers for the death of Jermaine McBean. Of specific interest is the ability of a law enforcement officer to use Florida’s contentious “Stand your Ground” law as a defense while on duty, which has shown itself to be an unprecedented use of the law.
Community organizers with the Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward have argued that “Stand Your Ground” is “ambiguous, racist, and sexist.” Organizer, Tifanny Burks, discussed some of the racist implications of the law as outlined in the American Bar Association’s National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws: Report and Recommendations.
This report, released in 2015, shows that a white shooter who kills a black victim is 350% more likely to be found justified in the use of lethal force than if the same shooter killed a white victim. The report also references the Tampa Bay Times investigative report that found in Florida when Stand Your Ground is used as a defense, defendants are 73% more likely to achieve a dismissal if the victim was black, and 59% more likely to achieve a dismissal if the victim was white.
Peraza’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, is firm in his argument that “Stand Your Ground” covers law enforcement officers during the line of duty. He said “We believe that ‘Stand Your Ground’ was correctly applied in this case and the legislature meant for all people. Law enforcement officers are people…” He further argued that if the legislature intended to exclude law enforcement or any other populations of people, they would have said so explicitly in the
Others argue that law enforcement is already significantly covered by the Police Bill of Rights while on duty. Jasmen Rogers, community organizer, stated “all over this county we have seen police officers shoot and kill unarmed folks and use their badge and employment as a defense. We should not set a dangerous precedent of extending more and more protections to law enforcement while not ensuring the community is equally protected.”
During Tuesday’s appeal hearing, approximately 70 community members rallied outside of the courthouse holding signs that read, “Stand Your Ground means kill at will,” and “Jermaine Died. Police Lied.”
If the ruling is overturned, Deputy Peter Peraza, would face a manslaughter charge and will be tried by a jury.
While the family awaits a decision that could take months, Deputy Peraza continues to be suspended with pay and McBean’s mother holds out hope for justice. She proclaimed, “He was a good person… I’m going to keep fighting.”