Florida Man Charged In Parking Lot Shooting Despite ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

A Florida man who shot and killed an African-American male amid a parking lot confrontation will face manslaughter charges after all.

Florida prosecutors have filed charges against a man who shot and killed another man he had gotten into an argument with notwithstanding the fact that law enforcement officers had previously cited the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law as a basis for not charging him:

Florida prosecutors filed a manslaughter charge on Monday against a white man who shot and killed an unarmed black man in a dispute over a parking space, three weeks after the local sheriff had refused to arrest the man, citing the state’s sweeping and controversial Stand Your Ground law.

Prosecutors in Pinellas County charged Michael Drejka, 48, with one count of manslaughter with a firearm in the killing of Markeis McGlockton, 28.

Mr. Drejka was taken into custody on Monday and held on a $100,000 bond. The maximum sentence he could face is 30 years in prison. His first appearance in court is scheduled for Tuesday.

The shooting on July 19, and the sheriff’s decision at the time not to arrest Mr. Drejka, reignited controversy over the Stand Your Ground law, one of Florida’s most far-reaching pro-gun statutes, which can make it difficult to prosecute people who kill and then claim that they acted in self-defense. Critics call it a shoot-first law that encourages escalations of violence

Long an incubator for the gun lobby’s most aggressive proposals, the Florida Legislature passed the law in 2005 over the objections of many law enforcement officials. About two dozen states now have such laws on the books.

The Florida statute says that people who reasonably believe they are in grave danger do not have a duty to retreat from a confrontation, even if they can safely do so, and instead have the right to stand their ground with deadly force. Last year the Florida Legislature made the law even more protective of those who use force by putting the burden of proof on state attorneys: They must show that the law does not protect a person they charge, rather than the defense having to show that it does.

The racial aspect of the July 19 shooting and the invocation of the law immediately drew comparisons to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, outside Orlando in 2012. In that case, the police initially declined to arrest the killer, citing the Stand Your Ground law.

The Pinellas County sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, said last month that he had decided not to arrest Mr. Drejka, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, because of Stand Your Ground. Mr. Drejka told detectives that he acted in self-defense.

Sheriff Gualtieri said the law had a “subjective standard” for determining whether a person who used force had a reasonable fear of harm, and he suggested that his department could be sued if it failed to follow the law.

The issue of “Stand Your Ground” laws in general, and Florida’s law in particular, became the focus of national attention four years ago during the aftermath of the incident in which George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin after the two got into a confrontation in Zimmerman’s neighborhood during a fateful night in February 2012. While the Zimmerman case was not, strictly speaking, a “Stand Your Ground” case, and that Zimmerman had ultimately waived his right to a pre-trial hearing that could have resulted in his acquittal, the case brought the issue of these somewhat controversial laws, and the question of the acceptable limits of self-defense in general and the Florida law in particular. Ultimately, of course, Zimmerman was acquitted of the charges against him, although, again, it’s worth noting that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was not the basis for this acquittal.

While they differ from state to state, these “Stand Your Ground” laws are fairly straightforward, and not nearly as controversial as some would have you believe. Shortly after the Zimmerman verdict, Eugene Volokh posted a good summary of existing law in the area, to which I added:

[T]he important thing to remember about “Stand Your Ground” laws is that they are really nothing more than the regular law of self-defense set forth in statutory form and often, as in Florida, with some procedural protections that give people charged with a crime the option of attempting to get charges against them dismissed before trial. Arguing against these laws is, in the end, nothing short of arguing against the idea that people ought to have a right to defend themselves to begin with, which I would argue goes against both human nature and a proper understanding of individual liberty. If the right to life includes anything it includes the right to defend that life when it is threatened. Arguing against such a right makes no sense whatsoever.

Under Florida’s law, in particular, a person who has a reasonable belief that they are in grave danger does not have a legal obligation to retreat from a confrontation even if that can do so safely. Instead, they have a right to stand their ground and defend themselves with deadly force if that becomes necessary. In the years since the state legislature amended the law to provide further protection to those who use force. These changes put the burden of proof on prosecutors to establish that the law does not protect the defendant rather than giving the defense the burden of having to establish that it does. Obviously, this makes a prosecutors job in these types of cases more difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily make it impossible.

In this case, a review of the facts of the case as they are known makes the original conclusion by the Sheriff’s Department that the shooter’s actions were protected by the “Stand Your Ground” law questionable at best:

Surveillance video of the shooting shows Mr. Drejka arguing with Mr. McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, as she sits with two small children in a car parked outside a convenience store near Clearwater, Fla., in a space reserved for handicapped people. Mr. McGlockton, who had been inside the store with the couple’s 5-year-old son, is seen leaving the store and shoving Mr. Drejka to the ground as Ms. Jacobs gets out of the car.

While still sitting on the pavement, Mr. Drejka pulls out a gun and points it at Mr. McGlockton, who takes four steps backward and away from Mr. Drejka. Mr. Drejka then shoots him in the chest, and Mr. McGlockton, clutching the wound, runs back inside the store, where he collapses next to his son.

He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

With respect to the facts of this case, there are two items that stand out here that argue strongly against the applicability of the “Stand Your Ground” law. First, this entire confrontation was started by Mr. Drejka, who was apparently upset by the fact that McGlockton had parked his car in the spot reserved for handicapped persons. While McGlockton was in the store, Drejka apparently engaged an in a loud an unruly rant directed at McGlockton’s girlfriend, who was in the car by herself with two small children. McGlockton sees this when he leaves the store with his son and, not unreasonably, assumes that his girlfriend and the other children are in some kind of danger from a man who was ranting and screaming at them. He responds by confronting Drejka and knocking him to the ground. It was at this point that Drejka pulls his gun. The video surveillance clearly shows McGlockton backing away from Drejka at that point but Drejka ends up pulling the trigger anyway and firing, shooting McGlockton in the chest and killing him. While I’ll admit to not being an expert in Florida law, the fact that McGlockton was backing away before Drejka fired strikes me as being significant in that it tends to undercut the idea that Drejka had a reasonable belief at the time that his life was in danger notwithstanding the fact that he was on the ground.

It’s possible, of course, that a Judge or Jury will disagree with my interpretation of the facts, but at the very least these facts make it clear that Drejka ought to stand trial for what happened here. There is a strong argument that any belief he had that he was in danger at the time he fired the gun was not at all reasonable and that it was not necessary for him to shoot McGlockton to defend himself given the fact that McGlockton immediately began to back away when Drejka pulled out his weapon. At that point, Drejka could have easily gotten up from the ground, putting himself on an even footing with McGlockton and potentially bringing the confrontation to an end. The fact that he didn’t is significant and makes the manslaughter charges here entirely appropriate. Whether Drejka ultimately gets convicted is, of course, a different story, but at the very least he’ll have to face justice, which is more than the Sheriff seemed interested in doing.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Black man shot by a white man? We’ll see J-nos in one of his disguises popping up shortly, along with the usual crew that magically appears whenever a white man murders a black man.

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  2. EddieInCA says:

    That was no “Stand your Ground”. That was an execution.

    You don’t get to start a confrontation, then claim to be the victim.

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  3. JohnMcC says:

    @EddieInCA: Actually, in FL you do get to start a confrontation and when it turns out you are losing and either fear for your life/safety or claim that – then you can shoot.

    It’s a law that basically makes dueling legal in this lovely state. Those cheap westerns that show two guys slowly walking toward each other down the main street of Wherever Texas? That’s legal in FL.

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  4. Gustopher says:

    I predict that Mr. Drejka will be acquitted. He is, after all, the whiter of the two. And Mr. McGlockton was no angel — he either parked in a handicapped space, or consorted with someone who did so.

    All of which argues that Ms. Jacobs should have been armed, and should have shot Mr. Drejka dead after Mr. Drejka shot Mr. McGlockton, and then proclaimed that she was merely standing her ground — the gun wielding lunatic might have come after her next, and no jury will unanimously vote to convict in that case.

    It was the only chance for justice.

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  5. Boyd says:

    If the facts stand as presented, within reason, this man will hopefully be spending some time in prison for murder, or at least manslaughter.

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  6. Franklin says:

    Anger, a natural human emotion, doesn’t mix well with owning a gun. I don’t like people parking in handicapped spots either, but the guy probably only had the guts to angrily confront the people in the car because he was packing (possibly combined with the mistake that he could easily harass a woman with her children). In any case, I have no sympathy for Mr. Drejka, but plenty for the people whose lives he ruined.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The fact of the matter is that Jacobs, by all rights, should have shot Drejka, first.
    The inevitable result of nonsensical laws like this is the Wild Wild West. (probably one of the reasons Russia has been funneling millions, thru the NRA, in their ongoing effort to stoke chaos)
    Everyone has to be armed because everyone else is armed.
    Everyone has to shoot first or be shot.
    The idea that the solution to gun violence is more guns is dumb. But the Republican party is dumb, and they have been bought by the NRA and its Russian benefactor. So here we are.

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  8. KM says:

    Drejka was a nut looking for a victim, plain and simple. He has a record of starting altercations and finally managed to get one going that gave him the outcome he was looking for. He was armed and harassing a woman and small children trapped in an enclosed area (she was the passenger and most likely didn’t have the keys to move the car to escape). He’s seen getting up close and circling the car, something that’s easily seen as threatening or intimidating behavior especially when followed up by an angry, augmentative self-appointed nutcase in your face. Why McGlockton’s actions weren’t seen as defensive of his family but rather provoking the armed agitator is rather telling of the police who are using the law as an excuse to let people slide on charges rather then as the courtroom defense it proposes to be.

    But this is Florida, land of insane “logic”. There you get to stalk people for blocks and still invoke “defense”. It never seems to occur to gun owners that their creepiness and otherwise threatening behavior puts others in a state of fear for their lives – only one who wields a killing device is allowed to be concerned for their own safety and thus take life at will. Unarmed people aren’t allowed to fear for their life under STG apparently – they only exist to cause the “fear” in the shooter and be the target for said “fear”.

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  9. Not the IT Dept. says:

    What is this thing in Florida where LEOs get to decide all on their own whether something is worth arresting someone over?

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  10. Matt says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: Officer discretion is allowed all over the country.

  11. JKB says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: What is this thing in Florida where LEOs get to decide all on their own whether something is worth arresting someone over?

    The individual made a claim of self defense that on its face had the appearance of merit. The shooter was not a threat to others, nor a flight risk, so the police left it to the prosecutors to determine if the individual would be charged.

    The prosecutors always have the final word on whether charges are filed, continued or prosecuted regardless of police arrests or booking charges. It was obviously not a clear cut decision for the prosectors who awaited the investigation then decided to file charges. The shooter was arrested without incident as they went about their normal activities in the community.

    That the sheriff brought up stand your ground was just chatter. But it did give fodder for the NY Times yellow journalism on the case. That the victim was backing away when shot means self defense will be a hard justification to make. No self defense, no stand your ground. An unfortunate case where manslaughter is probably the proper charge.

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  12. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Note to self–when dealing with angry white men. Shoot first and claim fear for your life. Stand Your Ground will be repealed within a Legislative session…or two.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Without a gun: an argument.
    With a gun: murder.

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  14. de stijl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    You are an unapologetic, proud black man. Which makes you almost the most dangerous person in America.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Allow me to play the devil’s advocate here for just a little while. Angry White Cracker has no reasonable assurance that this black guy isn’t from Wakanda or some other place where blacks have advanced technology, weaponry, and abilities. Just yesterday, Tyrell was talking about having a force field of some sort to use to build the wall, so we know this stuff exists–if only in the minds of guys like Tyrell and AWC. So, the fact that the black guy was retreating means nothing beyond the possibility that whatever horrible weapon he was going to use would miss and hurt a bystander used at a closer distance. With all this in mind, I see the sheriff’s point in not charging AWC, the prosecutor has a big hill to climb considering the potential alternate facts that he may be dealing with.

    Beyond that–and certainly more important in my opinion–prosecuting AWC is going to lead us to a world where white people are not going to have the freedom to hate on anyone at all. Do we really want to live in that kind of a world? REALLY? Better to leave things as they are so we can MAGA!

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  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Truth.

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    It’s political correctness gone mad, that’s what it is.

  18. de stijl says:

    McGlocton got shot dead over a parking slot. I’m ashamed to make this argument, but this might make a difference and Stand Your Ground gets a hard legal look.

    If there wasn’t video of this assassination, this would be a statistic.

    His name was Markeis McGlockton.

  19. Guarneri says:

    Self defense, or “stand your ground” seems a dubious defense at best.

    However, having read the thread, the notion of intelligent life here seems similarly dubious.

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  20. de stijl says:

    @Guarneri:

    Markeis McGlockton. That is his name. That man died because of a parking dispute. Absent a gun, people cuss at each other, one dude chucks the bird – other dude fires back Michael Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton dead because he could.

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  21. Slugger says:

    How does this law actually work? If Jones is in the sack with Mrs. Smith and an angry Mr. Smith storms into the love nest, can Jones plug Mr. Smith without legal sanctions? “He was angry, and angry guys are scary. So I shot before he could harm me.”

  22. de stijl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Right now, I could drive down to Walgreen’s and pick up some potato chips and it’s 11 o’clock. I don’t have to worry about DWB.

    Which is hilarious because I fucking hate cops. I’m whiter than Colbert or Canada, therefore I am more trustworthy than you because of skin. That is nuts. I can drive, and you can’t.

  23. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @de stijl: Unfortunately, you get used to it….. which is bad from the standpoint that it’s considered normal.

    My parent’s generation considered “White Only” water fountains normal until the youth of the day decided it wasn’t. The same today is happening for Criminal Justice reform. The youngest are really bucking the system. This cowardly asshole would have gotten a free pass if not for some meddlesome kids who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Even if their is no conviction….this perp will forever be a pariah. There’s nothing law-enforcement about him…so I predict he goes to prison. We’ll see….

  24. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    “Stand your ground”-laws are really the best hard evidence for the effects of gun culture and the irrelavance of the “guns do not kill people” argument.

    Florida has essentially the same legal regime as Germany, but the cultural differences and the easy access to firearms lead to radically different results.

  25. TM01 says:

    Nice article on this case, Doug.

    The self defense argument seems weak here. (Since he was on the ground, I don’t think stand your ground even enters the picture here.)

    However, he has claimed self defense, which, as in 48 other states, does put the burden of proof on the state to prove otherwise. I don’t think it’ll take the state much to prove that tho. But with juries, you never know obviously.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this case ends up.

    It’s a shame most of the commenters here apparently didn’t bother to actually read your article tho. Wild West? Russia? WTF.

  26. JohnMcC says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: Just curious and too lazy to get into the bushes of the internet and google-translate, so your remark about Germany = Florida in terms of firearm ‘regime’ – WTF?

    Maybe this will help:
    http://www.thelocal.de/20160616/five-things-to-know-about-gun-laws-in-germany-us-gun-contol-laws

  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @TM01:

    Wild West? Russia? WTF.

    That’s the world you gun fetishists want. Shootings in the street over parking spaces. You and the NRA and the Republican Party have sold your souls to Russia.

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  28. KM says:

    @JKB:

    The individual made a claim of self defense that on its face had the appearance of merit. The shooter was not a threat to others, nor a flight risk, so the police left it to the prosecutors to determine if the individual would be charged.

    And that’s where the BS comes in. He’s a man with a record of being a threat to others. The only problem is none of the previous threaten filed formal charges – that might have gotten his permit revoked and this story would have a different tone. He literally just shot someone over a parking space after menacing women and children while armed but he’s “not a threat”? The only way that works is if you disregard the fact that his threatening behavior CAUSED the altercation in the first place and focus solely on his claims of innocence that the scary black hit him first.

    I understand LEOs have discretion to determine detainment on the spot. However, SYG was NOT meant to be a Get Out of Charges Free card – it was meant to be a legal defense in court after charges were filed. Police don’t get to look at something like this, go “oh well, you felt threatened, have a nice day!” and move on. There was even a press conference where police claimed they COULDN’T arrest Drejka because of SYG – clearly some weapons-grade BS. I’m not going to argue the merits of the law here, merely it’s application as used in this case and others by LEOs. Too many are using it to preemptively excuse something that should rightly be determined by the legal system. Cops are not judges or prosecutors for a reason – if someone dies because you fired your gun, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to spend at least a night in a jail cell while they figure it all out.

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  29. James Pearce says:

    Arguing against these laws is, in the end, nothing short of arguing against the idea that people ought to have a right to defend themselves to begin with, which I would argue goes against both human nature and a proper understanding of individual liberty.

    If you don’t support shooting people dead at the first hint of danger, you don’t believe in self defense.

    Uh huh.

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  30. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @JohnMcC: I was referring specifically and only to the stand-your-ground statutes (“Notwehr” in Germany).

  31. Argon says:

    Interesting. Either man could have shot the other under the Stand Your Ground arguments….

  32. wr says:

    @JKB: “An unfortunate case where manslaughter is probably the proper charge.”

    He shot an unarmed man after picking a fight with him — why should this be manslaughter and not murder? Unless it’s because the shooter is white, the victim is black, and this is Florida.

  33. Ratufa says:

    @wr:
    He shot an unarmed man after picking a fight with him — why should this be manslaughter and not murder?

    Having him charged with manslaughter instead of murder is not necessarily a bad thing. In general, it is easier to convict someone of manslaughter. Things being what they are, I expect the prosecution will have its hands full just getting a manslaughter conviction.

  34. JohnMcC says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: Copy that. Out.

  35. JohnMcC says:

    @Argon: Indeed. If Mr McGlockton had been carrying there might very well have been a dandy shoot-out in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly (or wherever).

    The previous law did not forbid the use of ‘deadly force’ in self defense, BTW. It said that if you could ensure your safety by retreating, for example, by closing and locking a door you were obliged to do that FIRST. If an assailant still threatened you, fire at will. Always seemed like common sense to me. The principle difference I see is the SYG law appeals to the inner Rambo in goobers who find their way to the voting booth too often.

  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnMcC: I was going to ask about the common sense part of your statement related to Republicans, but the “inner Rambo in goobers” part seemed to cover the rest of the issue really well. Good job!

  37. Mu says:

    I doubt they find a jury that will convict him. The state has to prove that “stand your ground” does not apply. If he argues “I had words with someone about using a handicap parking spot and I was bodily attached by someone else, and on the ground” it’s hard to find 12 people who unanimously say otherwise.

  38. Tyrell says:

    @Gustopher: I think s manslaughter charge is over reaching and a jury will not go for it. A lesser charge would have a better chance.

  39. DrDaveT says:

    @Tyrell:

    A lesser charge would have a better chance.

    What did you have in mind? Littering?

  40. Justin Justice says:

    Keep the rules of the Trial in mind! In America we have A presumption of innocence rule and to be found guilty the accused must be proven guilty beyond and to the extent of any reasonable doubt. In this case the accused was violently shoved to the ground prior to defending himself. Falls account for over 25,000 deaths in the USA every year. The fall caused by the push could have killed the accused , hence , legal self defense was use!