Prosecutors in Florida charged a white man with manslaughter Monday for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in a case that revived debate over the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law.
Michael Drejka, 47, was charged for the July 19 death of Markeis McGlockton, 28, outside a Clearwater convenience store, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in a news release.
“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,” Gualtieri said.
Drejka is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Tuesday, when a judge will review his bond status and decide whether to appoint an attorney on his behalf, according to ABC News. He is currently behind bars in lieu of $100,000 bail.
"My first thought on hearing this news was: It's about time," Benjamin Crump, an attorney for McGlockton’s family, said Monday in a statement.
"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," Crump said.
The attorney rose to national fame while representing the family of Trayvon Martin after the teen was gunned down by George Zimmerman, whose legal team successfully argued a stand-your-ground defense in 2012.
McGlockton was in the shop when Drejka confronted Britany Jacobs, McGlockton's partner and the mother of his children, as she sat in the driver’s seat of her car in a handicapped parking spot outside.
“They were engaged in a discussion, a loud discussion, about her parking illegally in a handicapped spot. And that’s what it was all about. It was all about her parked in the spot, and him complaining that she was parked in the spot,” Gualtieri said at a July 31 news conference.
When McGlockton came out of the store and began walking toward the car, he saw Drejka standing nearby, arguing with Jacobs, surveillance video shows.
Feet from Drejka, McGlockton appears to charge toward him. Raising his hands face-up, palms out, he shoves Drejka to the ground, the video shows. At this point, McGlockton stands over Drejka, who is sprawled on the ground.
That’s when Drejka pulls a handgun from his waistband, and aims it at McGlockton. McGlockton, seeing the gun, backs up — but Drejka fires anyway, mortally wounding McGlockton, who stumbles back into the store and collapses.
Drejka had a valid Florida concealed-carry pistol permit, Gualtieri confirmed in July.
Gualtieri declined to charge Drejka on his own, citing Florida’s stand-your-ground law, which immunizes people from charges in cases of justifiable deadly force.
Justifiable violence, under Florida law, hinges on whether someone “reasonably believes” use of deadly force was “necessary to defend himself or herself against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”
Florida is not the only state with such a law, but the state's statute is unique for two reasons.
First, the aggressor does not have to use “deadly force” to justify the use of deadly force against him — "unlawful force" alone suffices.
And unlike most state self-defense statutes, Florida law does not impose on people using deadly force the duty to first retreat, if retreat can be safely made.
It will soon be up to a Florida jury to decide whether Drejka violated that law.
[Photos: Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department]