FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — An attorney for the family of an unarmed black man fatally shot by a white man in a Florida parking lot said Thursday that race is the reason no charges have been filed after the videotaped altercation.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who gained national prominence representing the family of Trayvon Martin after the black teen’s fatal shooting by a Hispanic man in 2012, said Michael Drejka committed “cold-blooded murder” in the death of Markeis McGlockton outside a Clearwater convenience store on July 19.
Drejka, 47, confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend as she sat in the couple’s car with two of their children, ages 3 years and 4 months, because she was parked in a handicapped-accessible space. McGlockton, 28, had gone into the store with their 5-year-old son.
Britany Jacobs said Drejka was cursing at her. Video shows McGlockton exited the store and shoved Drejka to the ground. Seconds later, Drejka pulled a handgun and shot McGlockton as he backed away.
“We all know race is a factor in this case,” Crump said at a news conference outside the Clearwater courthouse. Crump said that if McGlockton was white and Drejka was black, “does anyone doubt that he (Drejka) would have been arrested and taken to jail, if he would have not been shot right there in the parking lot?”
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said last week that under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, Drejka was defending himself and Gualtieri doesn’t believe he could be charged. He turned the case over to the state attorney’s office for a final decision. That office declined to comment Thursday.
Drejka did not answer a phone number listed for him Thursday and no attorney has come forward as his representative.
Gualtieri, who is an attorney, says Drejka told investigators he feared he was about to be attacked again when he fired. Under the stand your ground law, people can use deadly force if they believe they are in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and have no obligation to retreat. Under a change made by the Legislature last year, prosecutors must then prove the law doesn’t apply.
The soundless store security video shows the altercation began about a minute after Jacobs pulled into the handicapped-accessible spot. She told reporters last week McGlockton had just picked her up from her job as a nursing assistant, the parking lot was busy and they were only stopping for a minute. McGlockton and his oldest son got out and entered the store.
Drejka pulled up in his SUV seconds later, parking perpendicular to Jacobs. Drejka got out, walked to the back of Jacobs’ car, looked at the license plate, and then went to the front, apparently looking for a handicapped sticker there. He appears to say something to Jacobs and points to two empty spaces nearby.
He then walked to Jacobs’ window. He is speaking from about a foot away and gesturing with his hands. A man entering the store about 15 feet away stops to look and a woman glances over.
McGlockton then exits the store, walks toward Drejka and, just as Jacobs gets out of the car, shoves Drejka with both hands. Drejka lands on his back and McGlockton takes a step toward him. Drejka sits up, pulls his gun from his right front pocket and points it at McGlockton, who takes three steps back, his arms at his side. Drejka fires, hitting McGlockton, who runs back into the store clutching his chest. Witnesses said he collapsed in front of his son, waiting inside.
Michael McGlockton, the dead man’s father, told reporters his son was protecting his family when he shoved Drejka.
“Any man out there would have done the exact same thing.” He said Drejka should have stood up and fought his son, not shot him.
Crump drew comparisons Thursday to the case of Martin, a 17-year-old black youth who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a Hispanic man who was his Orlando-area neighborhood’s watch captain. Zimmerman had confronted Martin, who was walking back to the home of his father’s fiancee after making a purchase at a convenience store.
Zimmerman said he thought Martin might be a burglar casing homes. They fought and Zimmer fatally shot him. There were no eyewitnesses or videos. Zimmerman said he feared Martin, who was unarmed, was about to kill him and a jury acquitted him of second-degree murder.
Crump said Drejka and Zimmerman started their altercations and the law shouldn’t let them then fatally shoot someone.
“They could have just let the police do their job. But these wannabe cops initiated the confrontation and shot and killed in cold blood these unarmed black men,” he said. “And then both were allowed to go home and sleep in their beds.”