Michael Drejka, who killed Markeis McGlockton last month in a shooting that reignited the debate about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, has been arrested and charged with manslaughter.
Drejka, 47, shot McGlockton, 28, after an argument in a convenience store parking lot on July 19th in Clearwater, a Tampa Bay-area town on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Video of the incident was captured on the store’s security camera, and showed McGlockton and his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, along with their children, pull their car into a handicapped parking spot. McGlockton and his 5-year-old son went inside the store to buy some snacks and Jacobs and the other two children remained in the car. Drejka approached the car and started an argument with Jacobs about the parking spot.
When McGlockton exited the store, he saw the argument and pushed Drejka to the ground. The video shows McGlockton remaining standing several feet away as Drejka pulls a gun and shoots McGlockton in the chest, who then staggered back into the store and fell down, dying in front of his son.
Originally, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to charge Drejka, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, saying at a news conference that “the law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm.”
Gualtieri’s decision not to press charges sparked outrage and protests. A number of conservative commentators also criticized the decision, like National Review‘s David French, who called Gualtieri’s position “an inexcusably bad misstatement of the law,” because Florida Statutes Chapter 776 sets forth clearly different circumstances under which non-deadly force and deadly force are justified:
[N]o, not every punch, kick, push, shove, or fear of “harm” grants a person the right to pull his gun and shoot. It just grants him the right to punch or push back. That’s it. It would be utterly absurd if every physical altercation immediately granted the victim a license to kill. That’s not the law.
Deadly force is authorized only in the most extreme circumstances, when a person “reasonably believes” that it’s “necessary” to prevent “imminent death or great bodily harm” or to prevent the “imminent commission of a forcible felony.” This is not a subjective test. In other words, the question isn’t whether Drejka believed he was in imminent danger of death, but rather whether his belief was reasonable.
He was shoved to the ground after angrily confronting a man’s girlfriend. If that circumstance grants Drejka the right to kill, then the first paragraph of the stand-your-ground law is meaningless. Any person could respond to physical contact with deadly force.
Compounding the injustice is Drejka’s own absurd conduct. An armed citizen should not be mall-copping his way through life, initiating confrontations. And that’s especially true if you’re a grown man interacting with a young woman. There are many, many men who (quite reasonably, I might add) will react physically if they see a strange man confronting their wife or girlfriend.
Gualtieri referred the case to the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office for further review, and they decided to charge Drejka with manslaughter. An arrest warrant was issued, and Drejka was booked into the county jail earlier today with bond set at $100,000.
“I support the State Attorney’s decision and will have no further comment as the case continues to work its way through the criminal justice system,” said Gualtieri in a statement.
According to Fox News, investigators noted that the video and autopsy results showed that McGlockton was standing about 12 feet away from Drejka and was turning away from him when he was shot, findings that could be used to argue that Drejka’s conduct was not reasonable. The Orlando Sentinel reported that there have been at least three other incidents with other drivers where Drejka has “threatened them during confrontations,” including two where he brandished his gun.
“This self-appointed wannabe cop attempted to hide behind ‘Stand Your Ground’ to defend his indefensible actions, but the truth has finally cut through the noise,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for McGlockton’s family. “I have full faith that this truth will prevail to punish this cold-blooded killer who angrily created the altercation that led to Markeis’ needless death.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.
[Cross-posted at The Capitolist.]