A woman who watched as a man shot and killed her boyfriend in a Florida parking lot, has claimed the shooter “wanted someone to be angry at”, after police said they would not be charging him with any crime as a result of the state’s controversial self defence laws.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced he did not intend to charge 47-year-old Michael Drejka, who is white, over the shooting death of 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton, who is black. Mr Drejka shot and killed Mr McGlockton last week in a parking area outside a convenience store in Clearwater, 25 miles west of Tampa.
Video showed Mr Drejka aiming at and shooting Mr McGlockton as he sat on the floor, after Mr McGlockton had shoved him to the ground, after an argument over a parking space became heated. The video showed Mr McGlockton run back inside the store before falling to the ground. He died 30 minutes later after being taken to hospital.
Last Friday, a day after the incident, Mr Gualtieri, the police chief, told reporters he was not arresting or charging Mr Drejka because he believed his actions fell under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows someone to use deadly force if they believe they are in mortal danger.
Mr Gualtieri said his office will forward the case to prosecutors for a final decision. “I don't make the law. I enforce the law. I'm going to enforce it the way it's written. Others can have the debate about whether they like it or not," he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
He said the case would be reviewed by the state attorney who will determine whether Mr Drejka should be charged. But he said prosecutors would have to provide “clear and convincing evidence that [he] was not entitled to use force”. Mr Drejka, who has yet to comment on the incident, owned the gun legally and possessed a concealed carry permit.
Florida’s stand your ground law went into effect on October 1 2005, but it became under intense scrutiny following the 2012 fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Police originally cited the law when they said they were not going to charge self-appointed community watchman George Zimmerman.
More than 480,000 people signed a petition calling for him to be prosecuted. He eventually stood trial, but was found not guilty on all charges.
Mr Drejka and Mr McGlockton had apparently began arguing after Mr Drejka got out of his car and began “harassing” Mr McGlockton’s girlfriend,
Britany Jacobs, for being parked in a spot reserved for disabled people. She told ABC her boyfriend, with whom she had been with since 2009, had come to her defence.
The couple have three children. The couple’s four month-old and three-year-old were in the car with Ms Jacobs, while their five-year-old boy, was inside the store and saw what happened to his father.
“He wanted somebody to be angry at. He just wanted someone to fight him,” Ms Jacobs said of Mr Drejka. “He was picking a fight. I’m just sitting, waiting for my family to come back to the car.”
Surveillance video from the Circle A Food Store in Clearwater, showed Mr McGlockton leaving the store and shoving Mr Drejka to the ground. He immediately reached for his gun and shot Mr McGlockton.
“By this time a witness pulls up and everybody hears us going back and forth with one another. ... A witness goes in the store and he let the owner know that there was somebody out there messing with a woman in a car,” said Ms Jacobs.
“My man hears what’s going on, sees the guy yelling at me and I’m sitting in the car. My man is defending me and his children, so he pushes him down.”
She added: “Everybody is panicking…..my son is screaming, but it was too late. It’s hard for a four or five-year-old to witness what he saw. It’s really tough for him.”
There are efforts to repeal Florida’s stand your ground laws, and they were supported by Trayvon Martin’s parents.
In 2013, giving testimony before the Senate, Jonathan Lowy, of the Brady Centre to Prevent Gun Violence, said: “Florida’s enactment of the gun lobby’s stand your ground law only increased the dangers posed by its lax concealed carry laws. A Texas A&M study found that Stand Your Ground laws led to a net increase in homicide, with no evidence of deterrence of other crimes.”
He added: “As long as stand your ground laws send a message that encourages people to shoot first and ask questions later, and lax concealed carry laws allow dangerous people to carry loaded hidden handguns in public, we can expect tragedies like Trayvon Martin’s. The American public deserves better.”