A judge dismissed charges against a Florida sheriff’s deputy who shot a 33-year-old black man carrying an unloaded air rifle in Broward County in 2013, saying the law enforcement officer was protected under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, the Washington Post reports. Peter Peraza, 37, testified that Jermaine McBean initially refused commands from him and other deputies to drop the authentic-looking weapon and then turned and pointed it toward the deputies, the Associated Press reported. Peraza fired three shots, killing McBean. The deputy was the first Florida law enforcement officer criminally charged for an on-duty killing in more than three decades. Prosecutors intend to appeal Circuit Judge Michael Usan’s dismissal.
Worried 911 callers reported seeing McBean carrying what appeared to be a real rifle down a busy street. McBean’s family contended he was listening to music with earbuds and likely could not hear police commands to put down the gun. A widely shared photo of McBean moments after the shooting shows what appear to be earbud headphones in his ears as he lay on the ground after being shot. Activists with Black Lives Matter in Broward County said they were incensed with the judge’s decision. “We’re really confused on how any judge can see things that way,” said Jesse Cosme of the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward County. “Every other eyewitness testimony that wasn’t a cop is ignored in this decision to come to the conclusion that this officer was standing his ground.” Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was used in the successful defense of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin in 2012.