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Shooting death of Black man again thrusts controversial law into spotlight

By Janiah Adams -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Aug 22, 2018 - 11:30:05 PM

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Surveillance video from the Circle A convenience store in Clearwater showed Drejka (right) taking out a pistol and shooting Markeis McGlockton (left) in the chest.

MIAMI—After the shooting death of a Black father by a White man in Clearwater, Fla., efforts to obtain justice are ongoing. Although charges were presented, attorneys and organizers say it’s definitely not the end goal. With this case being one in a long line of similar cases, many wonder if true justice will be served.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, center, flanked by Britany Jacobs, left, and Clearwater attorney Michele Rayner, right, speaks to the media at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center, July 26, in Clearwater, Fla. Crump, an attorney for the family of Markeis McGlockton, an unarmed Black man fatally shot by a White man in a Florida parking lot said that race is the reason no charges had been filed after the videotaped altercation. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

Markeis McGlockton, 28, was shot July 19 by 48-year-old Michel Drejka. The shooting took place in a store parking lot after Drejka approached the car McGlockton’s girlfriend and three children were sitting in.

Attorneys Michele Rayner and Benjamin Crump are actively working on the case. Atty. Crump represented the family of Trayvon Martin, 17, in 2012 when the unarmed Black teen was fatally shot in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman who was acquitted using the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law as his defense. Mr. Drejka is making the same claim.  Atty. Rayner is representing the parents of Mr. McGlockton and Mr. Crump is representing Britany Jacobs, the young man’s girlfriend.  

“[Drejka] being convicted and sentenced and held accountable in the killing of Markeis McGlockton, an unarmed Black man, that’s the first vision of justice,” said Atty. Crump.

Atty. Crump said he and the family want Mr. Drejka charged with murder, but said it would be easier to have him convicted under the manslaughter charge.

Markeis McGlockton was a victim of a shooting at the Circle A convenience store in Clearwater, Florida.
Mr. Drejka began a dispute with Britany Jacobs, Mr. McGlockton’s girlfriend, about why the car was parked in a handicap spot, when Mr. McGlockton came out of the store and shoved Mr. Drejka to the ground. Observers argue that Mr. McGlockton saw this man he did not know behaving in a confrontational manner and was simply defending his family. Mr. Drejka then took out his weapon and shot Mr. McGlockton in the chest, even though the young, Black man was retreating at the time.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to arrest Drejka after he invoked Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and said at a news conference that he made the right decision.

“A lot of things have been said since this incident happened on July 19,” Mr. Gualtieri said. “A whole bunch of people offered a whole bunch of different opinions. And I’d suggest to you that the mere fact that so many people have so many different opinions validates that the decision not to arrest Drejka in this stage is correct under the law.”

The sheriff’s decision sparked immediate protests. Media reports stated Mr. Drejka had a concealed weapon permit and that he’s previously harassed people in the same parking lot where the shooting took place.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that since 2012, according to records and interviews, Mr. Drejka has been accused as the aggressor in four incidents. Some involved the same handicap-reserved parking spot outside the convenience store and another shooting threat. Another incident involved allegations of Mr. Drejka showing a gun.  

Bernie McCabe, the state attorney for Pinellas County, announced his decision to file charges against Mr. Drejka 12 days after receiving case reports from the sheriff’s office.

In a statement, Atty. McCabe said, “We have filed a formal charge, and he has been arrested, and he will now go through the court system.”

Mr. Drejka is charged with manslaughter with a firearm and was arrested Aug. 13. He made his first court appearance before Judge Joseph Bulone Aug. 14. He was booked in the Pinellas County Jail and bond was set at $100,000. Mr. Drejka remains behind bars, and if convicted, could face 30 years in jail.

A controversial law

Sue-Ann Robinson, an attorney in Miami who practices civil rights law and criminal defense, said the Stand Your Ground law has many misconceptions.

“The intent behind [the law] was for you to be able to protect your home,” she said. “If anyone intruded upon you in your home, you could shoot them and not be criminally liable for that act because you were essentially standing your ground in your home.” The application of the defense and its meaning then began changing and applied outside of the home, she explained.

Atty. Robinson said when considering this particular case, one part was overlooked.

“The important part that wasn’t looked at for this case, if you’re the initial aggressor for the altercation, you can’t use stand your ground. So, I guess the sheriff’s position at the time was that Drejka wasn’t the initial aggressor at the time, but if you look at the tape, you see that he was approaching the car of McGlockon’s family, which makes it inapplicable,” she said.

Justice in this case observed Atty. Crump, is making changes to the “Stand Your Ground” law.

“The second and the larger implication is that the Stand Your Ground law, this racist, Jim Crow law, needs to be repealed or at least amended,” he said. “To say that you cannot be the initial aggressor to start the confrontation with an unarmed person of color and then go home and sleep in your bed at night.”

The Stand Your Ground law became famous with the Trayvon Martin case. Since then, it has been under much scrutiny. Due to its rewriting in 2017, Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Fla., and a candidate in Florida’s race for governor, believes its interpretation can be unclear. He called for Florida’s current governor, Rick Scott, to declare an emergency and suspend the law until the Florida legislature can give clarity on how and when the law is applied.

“It is particularly an emergency in communities of color where we know that multiple studies have shown that the homicide rate is going up as a result of these laws,” Mr. Gillum said during a news conference. “We’ve found a way, at least until the legislature convenes and deals with these conflicts of interpretation and of law to ensure the safety of everyday people until we get greater clarity.”

Atty. Robinson said another issue with the law is it discriminates. “I’ve had cases where people have used other weapons to defend themselves and their stand your ground has been denied,” she said. “So, I’ve seen cases where it was Black on Black and there were racial lines and Stand Your Ground was not applied by the court.”

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that the Florida Legislative Black Caucus said its members will file Stand Your Ground legislation for the 2019 session. Rep. Bruce Antone, a Democrat from Orlando said the proposal will repeal the 2017 changes and remove the provision of the law that allows the aggressor that provokes the use of force to claim self-defense.

In the meantime, the case has drawn national attention and attracted protestors and demonstrators. Members of the National Action Network, Bay Area Dream Defenders and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition have taken part in demonstrations and organized a few themselves.

“When a man’s life is worth nothing more than an angry moment and a law to shield that ugliness behind it, [it’s] time for this nation and state to get its house in order,” Reverend Charles McKenzie, Florida state coordinator for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, told Tampa news outlet WTSP.

The group said it would take their fight to the polls, and only vote for candidates in Florida’s November general election who are planning to repeal Florida’s controversial law.

A family left behind

Ms. Jacobs, now without her boyfriend, has to worry about telling her children what happened to their father. “Britany Jacobs [can] tell her children that the bad man was arrested and put in jail, even though the thing they ask her that she cannot answer for them in an acceptable manner, is when is their daddy coming home,” Atty. Crump said.

Atty. Crump (far left) observes as Tracy Martin (in hat) and Sybrina Fulton, parents of Trayvon Martin take a picture with the family of Markeis McClockton. Photo courtesy of Sue Ann Robinson
He believes the family is relieved that Mr. Drejka was arrested and charged with manslaughter, even though they wanted to go with the murder charge. Mr. McGlockton’s mother, Monica Moore, said at a news conference that she could start healing after hearing the news.

Atty. Robinson was recently able to attend a lunch with McGlockton’s family and the parents of Trayvon Martin.  She said the parents extended their condolences and support.

“[They] spent a lot of time with them,” Atty. Robinson said. “Sybrina and Tracy have really set the standard for how to grieve with grace and how to fight for your child at the same time. So, them being there really helped the family because they didn’t feel like they were alone.”

Atty. Robinson also said Ms. Jacobs was really strong. She had to miss a recent news conference in order to take 5-year-old Markeis Jr. to school.

“This is the first of many milestones in Mr. McGlockton’s children’s lives that he will miss because of Michael Drejka’s actions,” Atty. Rayner said.

 “The mother of his children is a very strong woman and everything she’s doing, she’s doing in honor of her soulmate and the children,” she said. “I met little Markeis, and he lost his dad, but the explanation his mother offered him is his father ‘died protecting us,’” said Atty. Robinson