On July 31, 2013, BSO Deputy Peter Peraza shot and killed Jermaine McBean, a 33 year old beloved African-American engineer and citizen of Broward County.
On December 10, 2015, Peraza was indicted by a Grand Jury of Broward County citizens for Manslaughter with a Firearm, a violent first degree felony, punishable by 30 years in prison. After considering all of the evidence over the course of 3 days, including, Peraza’s own sworn testimony about what happened (as acknowledged by Peraza’s lawyer), the grand jury concluded that Peraza committed the homicide of Jermaine without legal justification or excuse.
On December 21, 2015, Peraza made his first appearance in court, announced with great fanfare by his lawyer and representatives of the union that represents BSO employees. The announcement came with a call for BSO employees to pack the courtroom to show support for Peraza, notwithstanding the grand jury’s decision to charge with felony homicide for killing Jermaine McBean, a law-abiding Broward citizen by all accounts.
The BSO answered the call in full force. The media reported that BSO deputies filled the courtroom to overflow capacity and lined the hallways of the courthouse to show their support for this indicted killer, to send the message that they will not stand for the indictment of a man from within their ranks. But they did not just come and show their support with their presence. The media reports, with pictures capturing the scene, that as Peraza walked down the hallway of the Broward courthouse, the BSO deputies cheered loudly for him and gave him their rousing applause – A standing ovation for a man who killed a 33 year old African-American engineer who was a citizen of Broward County carrying an unloaded bb gun home from the store and who the grand jury indicted for that homicide. The deputies, of course, are men and women who took an oath to uphold and enforce the law and who are charged with arresting and helping prosecute people indicted for homicide; yet here they gave a standing ovation to the accused killer from within their ranks. This is an absolute disgrace and dishonors the badge of every single one of these deputies and the good name of the BSO and good, honest, decent law enforcement officers across the globe who take seriously their duty to serve and protect. The deputies who applauded did not have the courage to give their names; but they announced that they were there as BSO deputies.
The death of Jermaine McBean in undeniably a tragedy. The fact that a BSO deputy killed him is sad and disappointing beyond words. There is nothing whatsoever in this scenario that should give cause for cheering or applause, let alone a standing ovation – and least of all by law enforcement officers.
What is going on with the BSO? Can you imagine how any citizen of Broward County who has ever lost a son or a brother seeing BSO deputies applauding his killer would feel? Can you imagine the message it sends to the people of Broward County when they see law enforcement officers taking the law into their own hands and rejecting the considered decision of a grand jury made up of Broward County citizens and instead of respecting the grand jury’s decision, applauding the man who the grand jury charged with an unlawful and inexcusable homicide of a law abiding citizen?
The McBean family would prefer to believe that the Sheriff was not involved with this action by these dozens of men and women who openly identified themselves as BSO employees and came to the Broward courthouse to cheer and applaud this indicted killer from within their ranks as BSO employees speaking up for one of their own. The McBean family would prefer to believe that this was just the misguided action of these deputies acting according to the call from Peraza’s lawyer and their union leader. Still these people stood before the public as BSO employees sworn to uphold the law and to protect and serve Jermaine McBean and every other law-abiding Broward County citizen and their view does not supersede the due process that led to an indictment being returned in this case.
The McBean family therefore calls upon Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to apologize for the conduct of his BSO employees who openly applauded and cheered for deputy peraza and to publicly state that these employees do not represent the BSO in any way and to make clear to all BSO employees under his command that this is not appropriate conduct and that it must not be repeated in the name of the BSO. He must remind them that it is their duty to respect the decision of the grand jury rather than working to undermine it, as many have vowed to do and as their conduct on December 21st indicates. The McBean family fully respects the presumption of innocence and the right of any private citizen to voice his or her opinion. But these deputies appeared and cheered and applauded for Peraza expressly as BSO deputies, not as private citizens and the Sheriff is responsible for their actions in that capacity.
Furthermore, this action in the name of the BSO takes place on the backdrop of the Gold Cross award that Sheriff Israel gave to Peraza for his conduct in killing Jermaine, before any investigation was completed and before any investigation was even begun by the State Attorney. Notwithstanding his acknowledgment that giving the award was wrong and Peraza’s indictment, Sheriff Israel still refuses to rescind the award, purportedly because he does not want to influence the case against Peraza. Query why rescinding an award for bravery which admittedly was against policy should require Peraza’s conviction for homicide beyond a reasonable doubt, but more to the point here, these BSO deputies clearly were and are trying to influence the process in favor of Peraza and seek to undermine the duly authorized prosecution against him – in the name of the Broward Sheriff’s Office. This demands a public statement by the Sheriff.
The people of Broward County have spoken through their grand jury, after carefully considering all evidence from every source over the course of several days. Our justice system is in terrible trouble if our sworn law enforcement officers decide that they can ignore an indictment because it charges one of their friends. They have a special role in our society in general and in our criminal justice system specifically and that role is to enforce the law. The grand jury here has determined that based on all of the evidence, Peter Peraza broke the law in the most serious way possible, killing a citizen in cold-blood. He, like any defendant, is presumed innocent until proven guilty; but our law enforcement officers violate their oath and duty when they attempt to pervert the course of justice with either blind support for the duly charged, consistent with the notion of a thin blue line or, worse, by misrepresenting the facts of the case. When they or his lawyer says Jermaine McBean pointed his unloaded air gun at anyone, they are repeating lies which demean Mr. McBean and which the grand jury clearly rejected after hearing all of the evidence. The BSO has no business endorsing such conduct and unless the Sheriff makes clear that they do not speak for the him or the BSO and apologizes to the McBean family for their actions, it will clearly appear that the BSO and Sheriff Israel stand with them and their call to ignore the legal process through which the grand jury has spoken.
David Schoen, on behalf of the family of Jermaine McBean