FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors charged a white man with manslaughter Monday in the death of an unarmed black man whose videotaped shooting in a store parking lot has revived debate over Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Michael Drejka, 47, has been charged with the July 19 death of Markeis McGlockton outside a Clearwater convenience store, Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe said. Drejka was being held at the county jail on $100,000 bail. It is unknown if he has an attorney.
McCabe declined further comment, referring reporters to court records that were not immediately available.
McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, who was seated in the couple’s car with two of their children, ages 3 years and 4 months, said Drejka confronted her for being parked in a handicapped-accessible space. McGlockton, 28, had gone into the store with their 5-year-old son. 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.
McGlockton family 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 in a statement Monday “it’s about time” Drejka was arrested. The family, civil rights groups and others had been holding protests demanding he be charged.
“This self-appointed wannabe cop attempted to hide behind ‘Stand Your Ground’ to defend his indefensible actions, but the truth has finally cut through the noise,” Crump said. “I have full faith that this truth will prevail to punish this cold-blooded killer who angrily created the altercation that led to Markeis’ needless death.”
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri originally declined to charge Drejka, saying one day after the shooting that the man was protected by Florida’s stand-your-ground law. The sheriff passed the case to prosecutors for a final decision. The law says 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, if a suspect raises a stand-your-ground defense, prosecutors must prove the law doesn’t apply.
“I support the State Attorney’s decision and will have no further comment as the case continues to work its way through the criminal justice system,” Gualtieri said in a statement Monday.
The soundless store security video shows the confrontation began about a minute after Jacobs pulled into a handicapped-accessible spot in the parking lot. Jacobs 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, according to the woman’s account. She said 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.
The video shows he then walked to Jacobs’ window. He is speaking from about a foot (0.3 meters) away and gesturing with his hands. A man entering the store about 15 feet (5 meters) 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 at a news conference days later that his son was protecting his family when he shoved Drejka.
Crump also represented the family 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 Zimmerman 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.