Is it right for someone who initiates a confrontation to then hide behind “Stand Your Ground” as a defense when they shoot and kill the other person?
That’s the basic question that seems to be coming out of the latest high-profile shooting of an unarmed back man in Clearwater, Fla.
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You’ve heard the story or seen the dramatic video by now: On July 19, Michael Drejka, 47, shot and killed Markeis McGlockton, 28, in a convenience store parking lot. According to Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies, Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about parking in a handicap space without a permit.
McGlockton went up to Drejka and “slammed him to the ground,” the sheriff’s office said. Drejka, seconds later while still on the ground, pulled out his handgun and shot McGlockton in the chest. The father of three was pronounced dead soon after.
It should come as no surprise, with all of the national attention on such shootings, that debate over the incident has entered the realm of politics. To be sure, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri first lit that debate fire by announcing the day after the shooting that he would not charge Drejka because the changes in the stand your ground law signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2017 muddied the waters too much.
But lawmakers and candidates on both sides of the political aisle disagree. Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a Clearwater church on Sunday to call for the repeal of the state’s controversial stand your ground law. And on Friday, Democrats in the Florida Legislature reached the 20 percent goal to force a poll of members on the question of an unusual election-year special session to change the “stand your ground” self-defense law.
Meanwhile, the Republican frontrunner for governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis, is joining Democratic and Republican critics alike in believing that Drejka should not have Stand Your Ground immunity: “I support the right of Floridians to defend themselves by standing their ground against aggressors. That said, it doesn’t seem to me that the law is even applicable in the case of Markeis McGlockton, and I don’t think the Pinellas County sheriff analyzed the law properly.”
Jacobs, 25, has called McGlockton’s shooting a wrongful death, and has hired civil rights attorney Benjamin L. Crump Jr., who also represented the family of Travyon Martin after he was shot and killed by wanna-be cop George Zimmerman.
While Zimmerman didn’t end up using stand your ground as a defense, police didn’t arrest him at first because of it.
At a recent news conference, Crump pointed out that, like Drejka, whom he labeled a “self-appointed, wannabe cop,” Zimmerman pursued Martin instead of letting law enforcement take over.
“It’s still ludicrous how you can claim that you have fear of your life but yet you approach and start the confrontation with the individual,” he told reporters.
Closer to home, you may remember that Crump also represents the family of Corey Jones Jr., the Delray Beach drummer who was gunned down in October 2015 by then-undercover Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja. Raja has been charged in Jones death, and is attempting to use a stand your ground defense.
Jacobs says McGlockton was her high-school sweetheart. The pair had been together since 2009, when she met him at a friend’s house while attending Dunedin High School.
They stopped at the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road on the way home from picking Jacobs up from her job as a certified nursing assistant to grab chips and drinks. Jacobs parked in the handicap spot, she said, because the parking lot was busy and they were just stopping for a minute.
The couple’s 4-month-old and 3-year-old were in the car. Their 5-year-old, named after McGlockton, was in the store.
Drejka then shot McGlockton, later telling Pinellas deputies he was in fear of further attack.
According to legal experts, it generally doesn’t apply when the confrontation is just verbal, barring any threats of violence.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who again has said the stand your ground law precludes his agency from arresting Drejka, has taken a similar stance. At a recent news conference, the sheriff, who is a lawyer, said what was “merely a discussion about why she’s parked there … didn’t provoke the attack.” His agency has forwarded the case to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to decide whether to press charges.
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