Following six hours of deliberation, jurors on Friday night convicted licensed gun owner Michael Drejka of manslaughter. Drejka was found guilty of killing “Markeis McGlockton, in the parking lot of a convenience store in Clearwater, FL on July 19, 2018, after arguing with McGlockton’s girlfriend over a handicapped parking space. Drejka claimed he fatally shot McGlockton in self-defense.”
In surveillance video viewed by the jury, McGlockton is “seen emerging from the store and shoving Drejka to the ground. Seconds later, Drejka pulls out a Glock .40-caliber handgun and shoots McGlockton, 28, as he turned away.”
This case quickly became a subject of national interest for two reasons. First, it tested the limits of Florida’s controversial 2005 “Stand Your Ground” gun law. Second, because Drejka is white and McGlockton was black, there are racial implications.
The 2005 Stand Your Ground law, which critics sometimes call the “shoot first” law, states:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
In 2017, the law was modified “to put the burden of proof on prosecutors to disprove a Stand Your Ground claim instead of on defense attorneys to prove one.”
The changes basically apply the “reasonable man” test to a case. If a reasonable man would agree there was a danger of death or great bodily harm in the same situation, the use of force is warranted.
However, the revisions also state that if the shooter instigated the altercation, the use of force is not justified. It appears this was the issue the jury was grappling with.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that, in his closing argument, Drejka’s attorney, John Trevena, told the jury, “He did what he thought he had to do, in the moment, in the split-second time, given that he was attacked. You may not agree with the law. But you took an oath as a juror to uphold the law.”
Drejka’s arrest came three weeks after the shooting occurred. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri believed the Stand Your Ground law “precluded him from doing so.” Following an investigation by Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe’s office, Drejka was arrested and charged with manslaughter.
Gualtieri explained to Fox News shortly after the shooting, “He told deputies that he had to shoot to defend himself. Those are the facts and that’s the law. No matter how you slice it or dice it that was a violent push to the ground.”
But civil rights activists said the shooting, and the sheriff’s delay in arresting Drejka, spoke to a culture of racism within the state of Florida. The National Rifle Association, as well as Republican legislators who helped write the law, disputed the sheriff’s interpretation of it and all five Democratic candidates for governor stood alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton at an Aug. 5, 2018 “Justice for Markeis” rally to call for a repeal of the law.
Following the verdict, McGlockton’s mother, Monica Robinson, issued the following statement:
This conviction doesn’t bring our son back, but it does give us some sense of justice because far too often the criminal justice system fails us by allowing people who take the lives of unarmed Black people to walk free as though their lives meant nothing. We are hopeful that this conviction will be a brick in the road to changing the culture of racism here in Florida.
Drejka’s sentencing is scheduled for October. He faces up to 30 years in prison.