Michael Drejka arrested, charged in slaying of Merkeis McGlockton
Michael Drejka has been arrested and charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton. For a quick recap, Sam Wilkinson did a write-up on this case, and the invoking of the Stand Your Ground defense in it, a while back:
Markeis McGlockton was at the Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road near Clearwater, Florida.
He had his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, and his three children with him. He parked in a handicap spot and went into the store. Michael Drejka, a man nearby, objected to McGlockton’s choice of parking spots and initiated a confrontation with McGlockton’s girlfriend. Seeing the commotion, McGlockton left the store, confronted Drejka, eventually pushing him to the ground. Drejka then pulled a gun, shot McGlockton once in the chest, killing him. McGlockton was black; Drejka is white. Prosecutors have announced that Drejka was standing his ground, and will not be prosecuting him.
What comes next is entirely based upon what is seen in the paragraph above. Some people will see a man defending his girlfriend and their children from an armed, confrontational stranger who obviously represented an immediate threat to their well-being. (And although McGlockton had no way of knowing this at the time, Drejka has done this before; several months earlier, Drejka had threatened to shoot another man in the same parking lot, regarding that man’s decision to park in the same spot.) Some people will see Drejka simply defending himself, to the maximal imaginable degree, from an aggressor.
But regardless of what people see in this story, Florida law sees Drejka as a victim completely justified in killing McGlockton, all because Drejka can credibly report that he was afraid for his own well-being in the aftermath of having been shoved to the ground. It does not matter that he instigated the conflict; it does not matter that he was the armed aggressor; it does not matter that he is the one that posed the threat; it only matters that McGlockton almost immediately, but only briefly, had the upper hand.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said as much late last week, noting that although he questioned Drejka’s decision to shoot McGlockton, “But I don’t get to, and we don’t get to, substitute our judgment for Drejka’s judgment.”
But that was then, and apparently the now includes bringing up Drejka on manslaughter charges, as covered by the Tampa Bay Times:
Prosecutors charged Michael Drejka, the man accused of killing Markeis McGlockton in a shooting that has reignited a debate over Florida’s stand your ground law, with manslaughter Monday.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Drejka was taken into custody Monday morning. He was being booked about 12:20 p.m. into the Pinellas County Jail, where he will be held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
“It’s about time,” said McGlockton’s father, Michael McGlockton, adding that he was ecstatic. “This is exactly what I wanted. This is exactly what me and my family wanted was to get this guy behind bars.”
Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Monday that his office “reviewed everything, and we filed the charge we think we can prove.”
“I’m comfortable that we moved expeditiously to review the case,” he said.
Drejka, who turned 48 since the shooting, had avoided arrest since he shot 28-year-old McGlockton on July 19 because of the controversial self-defense law that eliminated one’s duty to retreat before resorting to force.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced July 20 that his agency was precluded from arresting Drejka because evidence showed it was “within the bookends of stand your ground and within the bookends of force being justified,” which provides immunity from arrest, the sheriff said. He forwarded the case Aug. 1 to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to make a final charging determination.
So why the change? As the Times notes, the prosecutor declined to elaborate but the arrest warrant itself provides some clues:
It follows the same timeline outlined by authorities. The encounter between the two men started when Drejka, of 1116 Charles St. in Clearwater, confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about why she had parked in a handicap-reserved parking space without a decal at the Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road.
McGlockton, inside the store with his 5-year-old son, caught wind of the heated argument from witnesses.
Surveillance video shows him leaving the store, walking up to Drejka and pushing him to the ground. Drejka then pulls out a gun and shoots McGlockton. He told deputies he was in fear of further attack.
The warrant notes what McGlockton’s family and their lawyers have pointed out to show that Drejka’s fear wasn’t reasonable.
“Drejka steadies the firearm with both hands,” it says. “McGlockton immediately backs up when confronted with the firearm. As he backs up to his vehicle he begins to turn towards the front of the store away from the shooter.”
It also notes investigators used a scanner that helps capture measurement and distance to find that Drejka was about 12 feet from McGlockton when he fired the shot.
Several questions must be considered in deciding whether someone can be protected under the law when they use force: Was the person acting lawfully? Did the person have a right to be there? And was the person in reasonable fear of serious injury or death?
State legislators revised the law last year to put the onus on prosecutors to disprove a stand your ground claim instead of on defense attorneys to prove one. That would be hashed out at a pre-trial immunity hearing.
It would seem not just Drejka, but the scope and legal definition of Stand Your Ground law itself, will be on trial this time, at least in the court of public opinion.