In July 2013, a Broward County deputy sheriff shot and killed Jermaine McBean after shouting at him to drop what turned out to be an unloaded air rifle resting on his shoulder. The officer swore under oath that there was nothing stopping McBean from hearing his orders. A photograph taken by a witness has emerged, however, that appears to show McBean lying on the ground after he was shot, wearing earbuds. The New York Times reports that police records indicate the earbuds “somehow wound up in the dead man’s pocket.”
A federal wrongful death lawsuit filed on May 11 accuses the deputy who shot and killed McBean of perjuring himself and the Broward Sheriff’s Office of tampering with evidence and obstructing justice. Since 1980, on-duty police have shot and killed 168 people in Broward County. “The court never goes against the police,” Rajendra Ramsahai, whose brother-in-law was killed by a Broward County deputy last year, told the Times. “They are always ruling in the officer’s favor.”
“There is no thin blue line here,” Sheriff Scott Israel said. “We turn out honest and forthright investigations.” According to the Times, the Broward Sheriff’s Office bestowed a bravery award upon the deputy involved in the fatal shooting while the initial investigation was still ongoing.
Now—two years after McBean’s death—the state attorney for Broward County has assigned a public corruption prosecutor to the case and subpoenaed key witnesses in the shooting to testify before a grand jury.
McBean, the Times reports, had a history of mental illness. According to his brother, Alfred, on the day that McBean died, he had not gone to work, having recently been released from a hospital, where he spent a few days, after not taking his medication for a few days:
In a move that baffled his family, he walked to a pawnshop where he paid $106 for a green camouflage-colored Winchester 1000 air rifle, a device that uses compressed air to fire pellets but can be easily mistaken for a hunting rifle. Three people called 911 to report him, saying he was “screaming to himself” but perhaps holding a toy.
A deputy, a sergeant and a lieutenant went up behind Mr. McBean after he turned into the complex where he lived, and they shouted for him to drop the weapon. After ignoring them, Mr. McBean at one point stopped and started to turn to his right, when the deputy, behind him on his left, began to fire, records and interviews show. Mr. McBean fell on his back, howled in pain and said, “It was just a BB gun.”
Afterwards, the lieutenant gave a sworn statement alleging that McBean had pointed the air rifle “in a menacing manner.” Last week, prosecutors interviewed Michael McCarthy—who called 911 on McBean the day that he was killed—who disputed this, as did other witnesses.
McCarthy told NBC News that McBean was balancing the gun on his shoulders, behind his neck, and was turning to face police who had arrived to confront him when one began shooting. “He couldn’t have fired that gun from the position he was in. There was no possible way of firing it and at the same time hitting something,” McCarthy said.
The witness who took the photograph, NBC News reports, is a nurse. She said that police refused her offer to provide first aid to McBean as he lay dying. She also said that she pointed out the earbuds in his ears.