Florida 'stand your ground' shooter charged with manslaughter

Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Florida 'stand your ground' shooter charged with manslaughter
Michael Drejka is seen in an Aug. 13, 2018 photo provided by the Pinellas County, Fla., Sheriff's Office.

The Florida man who invoked the "stand your ground" self-defense law after shooting a black man in a dispute over a parking space was charged Monday with manslaughter, officials said.

Michael Drejka, 48, was arrested Monday morning in the fatal July shooting of Markeis McGlockton in Clearwater, Florida -- an incident that was caught on video which sparked an uproar after its release.

The announcement that Drejka was charged with manslaughter provided McGlockton's family with some comfort even as they continue to mourn.

McGlockton's mother, Monica Moore, said at a news conference that she has been in a "daze" since her son's death.

"So today when I head that he [Drejka] was being charged, I guess I could start healing," Moore said.

McGlockton's father, Michael McGlockton, said he believed Drejka should have been arrested and charged "from day one."

"When I got the news today I was happy, I was ecstatic about it, but I'm just sorry that it took so long, you know, three weeks later," he said. "I know this is going to be a long road. We are up for the task and we just hope for a good outcome at the end."

Drejka was booked at the Pinellas County Jail and bond was set at $100,000. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Tuesday, at which time a judge will review his bond status and decide whether to appoint an attorney for Drejka, or if the defendant can afford to hire his own lawyer.

If convicted, Drejka faces up to 30 years in prison.

Bernie McCabe, the state attorney for Pinellas County, announced his decision to file charges against Drejka 12 days after receiving investigative reports on the case from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

"We have filed a formal charge, and he has been arrested, and he will now go through the court system," McCabe said in a statement.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri had initially declined to arrest Drejka after the gunman invoked the "stand your ground" defense, saying his decision was bound by the law.

"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 on Monday.

McCabe said charging Drejka is "consistent with the decision-making process established under Florida law in this case."

McGlockton, 28, was shot on July 19 after he came out of a convenience store and saw Drejka berating his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about parking in a handicap zone. Surveillance video showed McGlockton shoving Drejka to the ground and Drejka, who had a legal concealed weapons permit, pulling a handgun and shooting McGlockton.

Attorneys for Jacobs, the mother of McGlockton's three young children, and McGlockton's parents have held several press conferences to say they do not believe Drejka should have been given immunity from arrest under "stand your ground."

"My first thought on hearing this news was: It's about time," said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Jacobs.

Crump said he "firmly" stands behind McCabe's decision to charge Drejka.

"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 in a statement. "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. We will continue to fight until justice is brought for the family of Markeis McGlockton."

Michele Rayner, an attorney for McGlockton's parents, added: "This is a big step forward in the direction of justice, not only for Markeis' family but also for society as a whole."

Rayner pointed out that the security video shows McGlockton retreating from Drejka after he pushed the man down in an effort to protect Jacobs and his children. She said that it took four seconds for Drejka to make "the conscious decision" to shoot McGlockton.

"Obviously, we are very encouraged by today's turn of events, especially in light of the sheriff's refusal to do the right thing initially," Rayner said during Monday's press conference. "While we are very encouraged by what the State Attorney has done and by, we believe, making the right decision, we understand that this is a very long road. This is a first step among many steps and we have a long way to go. Our ultimate goal is a conviction in this case."

Rayner said Jacobs did not attend Monday's press conference because she had to take her 5-year-old son, Markeis Jr., to his first day of 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," Rayner said.

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