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A Florida deputy charged with manslaughter for shooting a computer engineer who was carrying an air rifle is demanding the dead man's mental health records, claiming a "breakdown" set the stage for the fatal confrontation.
Prosecutors had no comment on the request or claims by Broward County Deputy Peter Peraza, but the court set a hearing date for Jan. 28.
A lawyer for the family of the slain man, Jermaine McBean, called the defense motion "a desperate tactic to distract attention away from the actual facts."
"They are trying to victimize Jermaine McBean and his family a second time around after ensuring Jermaine isn't here to defend himself," said the attorney, David Schoen.
Peraza was indicted for shooting 33-year-old Jermaine McBean on July 31, 2013. He was the first law enforcement officer in the county to be criminally charged for the shooting death of a civilian since 1980.
Police said McBean ignored their cries to put down the pellet gun he'd just bought at a pawn shop and pointed it at them. One witness who called 911 on McBean told NBC News that he never pointed the rifle.
As NBC News reported last year, McBean's family said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010. Six days before his death, after an episode at work — a co-worker told police he was acting "manic" and "irrational" — he was taken to the hospital and had his medication adjusted, his family said.
In court papers, Peraza's lawyer acknowledges that McBean was an IT professional with two college degrees, no criminal record and no history of violence. He argued a jury should hear about McBean's mental history because it explains why he, according to Peraza, would point a rifle at police.
"McBean was not acting normal because he was having a mental breakdown due to his multiple mental health problems and failure to take his medication," the motion says.
Schoen said McBean was taking his medication and that he was not in crisis the day of the shooting.
McBean's family has filed a federal lawsuit against Peraza and the police department, charging there was a coverup over the shooting.
A photo of McBean's body shows he was wearing earbuds, even though police insisted there was nothing obstructing his hearing. Peraza and a sergeant were given bravery awards for the shooting, which the sheriff has since admitted was a mistake.