In a reversal by Florida law enforcement, which initially declined to charge a man claiming self-defense under the state’s “stand your ground” law, police have charged the white man who shot and killed an unarmed black man in a convenience-store parking lot in July with manslaughter.
On Monday, prosecutors filed the charges against Michael Drejka, 48, who in a surveillance video can be seen shooting Markeis McGlockton, 28, in the chest over a parking-space dispute.* Drejka has been keeping a low profile since the shooting, when Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced that Drejka was protected by the state’s “stand your ground” law.
In the July 19 incident, McGlockton entered the convenience store with his 5-year-old son while his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, sat in the car outside with their two other children, who were 3 years old and 4 months old.* They were parked in a handicapped-accessible space, and Drejka approached the car to argue with Jacobs about the spot. The argument grew loud, and McGlockton left the store to intervene. He pushed Drejka to the ground, and Drejka pulled out a gun and shot McGlockton in the chest. The 28-year-old man collapsed and was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
After the shooting, Gualtieri told reporters that Drejka’s actions fell “within the bookends of ‘stand your ground’ and within the bookends of force being justified.” This statement was followed by an immediate public backlash, and even the NRA spoke out against the sheriff’s interpretation of the law, which allows people to use deadly force if they “reasonably believe” it is needed “to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.” But Gualtieri stood by his decision in the days that followed.
Gualtieri had also said that the case would be sent on to the state attorney’s office for a review and a final decision on whether charges should be filed. That investigation led to a decision that overruled the sheriff, and as some state lawmakers are calling for the law to be repealed, legislators have asked the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the case.
McGlockton’s family has been represented by Benjamin Crump, an attorney who became nationally known after representing the family of Trayvon Martin after the teenager’s killing in 2012. Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, lived in Orlando and claimed he feared Martin was going to kill him. In that case, too, the shooter claimed self-defense—though he didn’t specifically use the “stand your ground” law in his defense—and wasn’t initially charged. Zimmerman was acquitted by a Florida jury, but Drejka’s trial might have a different ending—in his case, there are eyewitnesses and security videos.
Correction, Aug. 13, 2018.: This post originally said Drejka was 47; since the shooting, he has turned 48. Additionally, this post originally misspelled Britany Jacobs’ first name.