A Florida man who claimed self-defense after shooting and killing an unarmed black man in a grocery store parking lot has been convicted of manslaughter.
Michael Drejka, whose case shone a spotlight on Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, was found guilty of killing Markeis McGlockton following a confrontation over a parking space at a Pinellas County grocery store in July 2018.
The jury deliberated for six hours before reaching a verdict, according to the Associated Press.
On July 19, 2018, authorities were called to Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road in Clearwater after reports a man had been shot.
Police learned that McGlockton, 28, a father of three, had picked up girlfriend Britany Jacobs from work around 3 p.m. and driven to the store to purchase snacks. While McGlockton was inside with his 5-year-old boy, Drejka, wearing a "baseball cap and dark sunglasses," allegedly began circling the family’s vehicle while McGlockton’s girlfriend sat with the other two children inside, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.
Drejka, irked that the family had parked in a handicap space, began yelling and waving his arms at Jacobs. The woman told him to “mind his business,” according to the criminal complaint.
Meanwhile, McGlockton, who was alerted to the altercation by a witness, left the store and intervened, pushing Drejka to the ground. That’s when the 49-year-old Florida man produced a Glock .40 caliber handgun and pumped one shot into McGlockton’s chest as he attempted to flee.
McGlockton stumbled back into the store and collapsed in front of his 5-year-old son. His girlfriend raced after him and found him “dying on the floor of the convenience store.” He later died at the hospital, according to the New York Times.
"Stand your ground" laws, which have been enacted in more than 20 states, give individuals immunity when responding to threats against them that put them in jeopardy of death or great bodily harm.
Drejka told police he had feared for his life, but despite this, prosecutors successfully argued that Drejka was in no immediate danger, particularly since surveillance footage showed McGlockton moving away from Drejka once he drew his pistol.
“Markeis McGlockton immediately backs up when confronted with the firearm,” the criminal complaint states.
Initially, Pinellas County authorities refused to arrest Drejka because of "stand your ground." It took roughly three weeks before charges were brought against him.
“Obviously we were disappointed with the verdict,” Drejka’s attorney, John Trevena, told Oxygen.com.
Trevena, explained that his client was shocked when he was arrested after first being cleared by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
“The sheriff of Pinellas County felt that his actions fit squarely in the bookends of the stand your ground statute,” Trevena said, who noted many gun rights advocates support his client.
“So there’s still a divisive split on the issue,” he added. “Unfortunately, our jury sided with the state’s argument, but I can assure you there are a large number of individuals who still think that Mr. Drejka acted appropriately under the circumstances.”
In a 2018 interview with WTSP, a local CBS affiliate, Drejka expressed little remorse after killing McGlockton.
"I followed the law the way I felt the law was supposed to be followed," Drejka said. "I cleared every hurdle that that law had to, had to put in front of me.”
Drejka’s lawyer told Oxygen.com that he plans to file a motion for a new trial in the next week. The Florida criminal defense attorney added that he’ll also appeal Drejka’s conviction following his sentencing in October.
For some, McGlockton’s killing bore similar racial and political undertones to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida in 2012. Civil rights groups, including advocates such as Al Sharpton, were vocal in demanding justice for McGlockton’s family. Trevena, though, claims that Pinellas County prosecutors succumbed to that political pressure in charging Drejka.
“I think that’s absolutely the case,” Trevena explained. “This case would probably never made the light of day had it never been for activists with their own agenda trying to make changes to [the] ‘stand your ground’ law, and unfortunately, Mr. Drejka was sucked into that vortex, and has unfairly suffered as a result.”
Drejka has a history of waving firearms at strangers during seemingly minor traffic encounters, and once threatened to “blow” a septic service worker’s “head off,” who had also parked in a handicap spot at the exact same grocery store where McGlockton was killed, according to detectives. Drejka reportedly hurled “racial slurs” at the man, as well. Trevena again downplayed the credibility of those claims, and refuted the characterization of McGlockton’s slaying as racially motivated.
“There was no evidence of any racial animus,” Trevena added.
Ben Crump, the attorney for McGlockton’s family, didn’t respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment.
"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," Monica Robinson, McGlockton's mother, said in a statement, according to Fox News.
“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 Oct. 10. He could face up to 30 years in prison, the New York Times reports.
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