What happened to the case of Jermaine McBean?
McBean, 33, was a Black man, a computer systems engineer who was gunned down on July 31, 2013 by a Broward County, Florida deputy responding to calls from people reporting a man walking down the street with a rifle. McBean was reportedly carrying an unloaded air rifle—a pellet gun—home from a pawn shop.
On Wednesday, a grand jury began hearing evidence in the shooting death of McBean. According to NBC News, the slain man’s family was scheduled to testify, as the U.S. Department of Justice monitors the situation for possible violations of civil rights law. David Schoen, attorney for the family, said the failure of the grand jury to indict the officers would be a travesty, and noted no Broward County cops have been indicted among the 168 police shootings that resulted in fatalities since 1980.
“If there is no indictment returned in this case for both the homicide and the obstruction of justice that followed, it would send a horrible message to the world, including to all of the good and honest law enforcement officers who do their job honestly and faithfully every day,” Schoen told NBC News.
According to police, McBean ignored police orders to stop and drop the rifle, and was not wearing headphones that would have prevented him from hearing them. However, a photograph revealed McBean’s body on the ground wearing earbuds. Further, one of the 911 callers contradicted the police claims that McBean pointed the rifle towards them.
Three months after the killing, two of the officers on the scene–including the deputy who fatally shot McBean–were awarded for their role in the shooting, a move which McBean’s family allege was part of a cover-up.
Meanwhile, the story always seems to have the same plotline. Someone calls 911 to report a Black male suspect–whether a man or a boy—with a weapon. Police respond, guns blazing, and as a result there is a dead Black man. This happened in 1994 with Nicholas Heyward, Jr., 13, shot dead while playing in the stairwell in the Gowanus Housing Project in Brooklyn, New York. The officer said he was responding to a 911 call of shots fired. Nicholas and his friends were playing cops and robbers with toy guns. One toy was red, the other orange.
“Nicholas appeared before him suddenly. The officer shot him. And Nicholas was gone,” said Nicholas Heyward, Sr., the boy’s father, to NPR. “Nothing ever happened to the officer. Not once did he ever make any attempts to apologize.”
On August 5, 2014, days before Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, John Crawford, III, 22, was fatally shot by police in a Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart, near Dayton. A former Marine reported that a man was carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle. In reality, it was a toy BB rifle he had just purchased from the store. And while police claim he ignored their orders to drop the rifle, Crawford was reportedly on the phone with his girlfriend and facing away from the officers, and likely did not hear them.
Weeks after Crawford’s death, on September 10, 2014, Darrien Hunt, 22, was shot to death with six police bullets after cops responded to a 911 call about a man carrying a sword. Hunt, who was shot four times in the back, was wearing a Japanese anime costume and wearing a replica sword. Police in the Salt Lake City, Utah suburb claimed the Black man lunged at them. The family’s lawyer claimed that the trajectory of the bullets show that Hunt was turning away when he was shot, according to RT. His mother rejected a $900,000 settlement.
And finally, on November 22, 2014, 12-year old Tamir Rice was killed by Cleveland police responding to a 911 call reporting someone waving a gun in a park. The dispatcher failed to tell the officers that the caller said the gun was “probably fake” and the person involved was “probably a juvenile.” Within two second of the police arriving on the scene, one of the officers opened fire on Tamir.
So, this is nothing new, and people now wonder if justice will be done for the family of Jermaine McBean.