FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The mother and brother of a Florida man fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy while carrying only an air rifle are grateful for a grand jury indictment on manslaughter charges, they said Monday in their first public remarks.
Broward sheriff's Deputy Peter Peraza was charged Friday in the 2013 shooting death of Jermaine McBean. Jennifer Young and Alfred McBean said the indictment gives them hope for some measure of justice in Jermaine McBean's death.
"It's a tragedy. My son won't be coming back, but this is the first step, a massive step to seeking justice for Jermaine," Young told reporters outside the Broward County Courthouse.
McBean, 33, was shot by Peraza in July 2013 outside his apartment complex. He was carrying over his shoulders an authentic-looking air rifle he had just purchased at a nearby pawn shop and, family members say, was listening to music through earbuds and did not hear police commands to drop the rifle.
"Every time I think of my son, I break up. We all do, because he was a good person. He was a wonderful man, he was my right arm," said Young, reports CBS Miami.
Peraza, a 14-year Broward Sheriff's Office veteran, is free on $25,000 bail and is suspended without pay. Peraza's attorney says he is innocent and was acting appropriately as a law enforcement officer when he shot Jermaine McBean.
Eric Schwartzreich, the attorney for Peraza, said his client is being scapegoated and punished for protecting the community, reports CBS Miami.
"He never should have been indicted," Schwartzreich said. "He gets a call, a man with a rifle. Whether or not that rifle is real, what matters to the deputy is perception and that is Florida law."
Peraza and two other deputies present that day say he pointed the weapon at them, but some witnesses say that is untrue. The deputies also said they were trying to protect children and families crowded at the apartment complex's pool from possible harm.
Peraza faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. He is the first Florida law enforcement officer charged for an on-duty shooting in 26 years and the first in Broward County since 1980.
The family has also filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit. Their attorney, David Schoen, said the indictment of Peraza could mean an improved chance for a settlement in that lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.
"We think now this may be a turning point in this case," Schoen said. "This was a dead investigation. Hopefully justice will prevail."
McBean's family also said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel should rescind the award given to Peraza for his actions in shooting McBean. The commendation, they said, makes no sense in light of a grand jury indictment for the same actions.
"We are horrified with what we found," Alfred McBean said of discrepancies in the official version of events. "Should a deputy still have an award?"
A spokeswoman for Israel did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The sheriff has said the award was premature because the investigation into Peraza's actions was not complete.
Justin Cosme of the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward told CBS Miami change is coming, and is necessary.
"Young black men and women in this country leave their homes each morning, not knowing whether they'll be able to return home," said Cosme.