|Florida law enforcement officers can invoke the state's "stand your ground" law to protect them from criminal prosecution in a shooting, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.
The court issued its 7-0 decision in the case of Peter Peraza, a Broward County sheriff's deputy charged with manslaughter in the 2013 fatal shooting of a man carrying what turned out to be an air rifle.
Peraza's lawyers claimed he was immune from prosecution under the stand your ground law, which permits use of deadly force when a person has a legitimate fear of "imminent death or great bodily harm." The justices agreed with two lower court rulings, which concluded that the law applies to law enforcement officers the same as anyone else.
"Simply put, a law enforcement officer is a 'person' whether on duty or off, and irrespective of whether the officer is making an arrest," Justice Alan Lawson wrote for the court.
"In common understanding, 'person' refers to a 'human being,' which is not occupation-specific and plainly includes human beings serving as law enforcement officers," he added.
Peraza shot 33-year-old Jermaine McBean during a confrontation with deputies at his apartment complex. Several people had called 911 to report a man openly carrying a rifle down a busy street and acting erratically.