A jury has convicted Michael Drejka, a white Florida man, who fatally shot an unarmed black man, Markeis McGlockton, in July 2018.
Drejka’s defense used the state’s “stand your ground” law, saying he feared for his safety when the two men got in an argument over the use of a handicapped-accessible space in a convenience store parking lot in Clearwater.
Prosecutors said the incident began when Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend as she sat in the car, which was parked in a handicapped-accessible space. They said McGlockton was in the store, and when he returned with the couple’s 5-year-old son, the dispute escalated and McGlockton shoved Drejka to the ground.
Surveillance video of the scene shows Drejka, who has a conceal-carry permit, draw his weapon and fire one fatal shot at McGlockton.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri didn’t initially arrest Drejka because he believed the “stand your ground” law applied.
The law, as described by The Associated Press, is a lengthy one that “generally says a shooting is justified 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.”
Gualtieri said Drejka told deputies, “When he was on the ground … he was in fear … that the next thing that’s going to happen is that he’s going to be reattacked by McGlockton.”
Several weeks later, after protests, Drejka was charged with manslaughter by the state attorney’s office.
Jurors took six hours to settle on the verdict. During deliberations, the jurors sent the judge a note saying they were confused by the self-defense law, according to the AP. The judge said he could only read them the law again.
When the guilty verdict was announced, the Tampa Bay Times reports, “In the front row of the gallery, McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, threw up her hands and clapped. A woman broke into sobs. McGlockton’s father pressed his elbows into his knees as supporters squeezed his shoulder. His mother embraced family.”
The judge ordered Drejka to be held in custody until sentencing. He could get up to 30 years in prison.