Michael Drejka, the white Florida man who claimed self-defense after shooting and killing an unarmed Black man in a heated dispute over a handicapped parking space, was found guilty of manslaughter Friday.
After just six hours of deliberation, a jury convicted Drejka in the July 2018 shooting that ended the life of 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton outside a convenience store in Clearwater. According to The Associated Press, Drejka looked at the floor, then wiped his brow with a handkerchief after the verdict was read.
Guards led him away in handcuffs to jail, where he’ll remain without bond until his sentencing in October.
McGlockton’s family, who were present for the trial, cried tears of joy over the jury’s decision.
“This conviction doesn’t bring our son back, but it does give us some sense of justice because far too often the criminal justice system fails by allowing people who take the lives of unarmed Black people to walk free as though their lives meant nothing,” McGlockton’s mother, Monica Robinson, said in a statement. “We are hopeful that this conviction will be a brick in the road to changing the culture of racism here in Florida.”
The deadly incident unfolded last year when an irate Drejka, 49, confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, when she pulled into a handicapped-accessible parking spot but didn’t have the proper permit. The Florida man, who told detectives he had a “pet peeve” about illegal parking in handicapped spots, scolded Jacobs over the matter as she and her young children sat in their car.
McGlockton was inside the store with the couple’s 5-year-old son as Jacobs and Drejka argued outside. Surveillance footage captured the moment he exited to the store to find Drejka harassing his girlfriend, after which he approached the stranger and shoved him to the ground.
That’s when Drejka, still on the ground, drew his weapon and shot McGlockton in the chest, killing him.
After the shooting, Drejka cited the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which removes the duty to retreat for citizens who are confronted by people they perceive as threats.
In Drejka’s interview with Pinellas County Sheriff’’s officials after the shooting he said, “[Unclear] the ‘stand your ground’ thing, and I did exactly what I thought I was supposed to be doing at that time considering what was happening to myself.” The Florida man also claimed he shot “to save my own ass” after McGlockton stepped toward him after knocking him to the ground. However, surveillance video shows the young father actually step back after Drejka pulls his gun.
In a police interview, he told deputies “I did exactly what I thought I was supposed to be doing at that time considering, what was happening to myself,” adding that he feared McGlockton, 28, would continue attacking him.
The jury, composed of five men and a woman, reached a verdict 30 minutes after sending out a note saying they were confused by Florida’s self-defense law. Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone told them all he could do is reread the law for them, AP reported.
According to the outlet, “The lengthy statute generally says Drejka could shoot McGlockton if a reasonable person under those circumstances would believe they are in danger of death or great bodily harm. But it also says the shooter could not have instigated the altercation” — which Drejka did.
The Florida man told detectives illegal parking in handicapped spots angered him and that he often walked around such cars searching for handicapped stickers and placards, sometimes even snapping photos of the offending vehicles.
“He is a parking lot vigilante,” prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser said during Friday’s closing arguments.
Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, an attorney for Drejka, said she respected the jury’s decision, but that her team plans to file an appeal. Coy also extended her condolences to the victim’s family, adding that she was “happy they received the justice they were seeking.”
Drejka’s sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 10. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
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