The FBI has launched a federal probe into the 2013 Florida police shooting death of Jermaine McBean, who was killed walking home after purchasing an air-rifle from a local pawn shop.
The announcement came in the wake of a federal wrongfully death and civil rights lawsuit filed by the mans family against the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, who is now seeking to halt the legal action after the relatives alleged a cover up.
Police claimed the 33-year-old computer engineer had ignored their calls to drop the rifle and pointed it at them near a pool where children were swimming, but witnesses who made the initial 911 calls say otherwise.
Michael McCarthy said McBean had the Winchester Model 1000 Air Rifle balanced on his shoulders behind his neck, with his hand over both ends and turned around to face police before a trigger happy officer started firing.
“[McBean] couldn’t have fired that gun from the position he was in,” McCarthy said. “There was no possible way of firing it and at the same time hitting something. I kind of blame myself, because if I hadn’t called it might not have happened.”
Detectives had also claimed McBean had nothing in his ears that would have stopped him from hearing police commands to drop the pellet gun, and said police at the scene confirmed he was not wearing headphones.
Recently released photos taken by an additional witness however, clearly show McBean lying shot on the ground with ear buds in.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has denied the coverup accusations and said in court papers that McBean was to blame for his own death.
The department has also given deputy Peter Peraza an award for bravery for killing McBean – even though the shooting is still under investigation.
Two years after McBean’s death, prosecutors still have not presented the case to a grand jury.
“I’m glad the Justice Department is going to take a look at it because the local authorities have had two years to investigate this case,” lawyers for the family said.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office have not made any comment on the federal probe.