Manslaughter charge filed in Clearwater 'Stand Your Ground' case
CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - Three weeks after a controversial 'Stand Your Ground' shooting in Clearwater, charges have been filed in the case. Gunman Michael Drejka is being booked on a manslaughter charge for the death of Markeis McGlockton.
The shooting, which was captured on surveillance footage, had become the focus of local and national protests after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri concluded that last year's changes to the state's Stand Your Ground law - which gives citizens the right to use deadly force in self-defense - prevented him from making an arrest while the self-defense claim was investigated.
Instead, Gualtieri opted to hand over the evidence to the State Attorney's Office and allow prosecutors to decide whether to charge Drejka.
The parking lot confrontation happened at the Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road back on July 19. Investigators say Drejka, 47, confronted McGlockton's girlfriend for parking in a handicapped spot.
The store's surveillance video shows McGlockton shove Drejka to the ground, then pause. That's when Drejka pulls out a handgun and fires one shot, striking the 27-year-old in the chest.
The wounded McGlockton walked back into the convenience store, where he collapsed. He died at Morton Plant Hospital a half-hour later.
Deputies said Drejka - a licensed concealed-carry permit-holder - cooperated with them from the outset. He does not have a criminal history, but back in 2012, he was accused of pulling out a handgun during a road-rage incident. The driver declined to press charges, and Drejka denied showing the weapon.
After last month's shooting, the owner of the Circle A store told FOX 13 that Drejka had confronted others for parking in the handicapped spot before.
The sheriff said Drejka told detectives that he was in fear for his life after being shoved to the ground.
"He believed that McGlockton was going to come back at him, and he fired in a very short amount of time -- four-seconds, probably; somewhere in that range. That is within the bookends of Stand Your Ground and within the bookends of force being justified," Gulatieri stated at the time.
Immediately, McGlockton's family and friends objected to the sheriff's decision.
"All Markeis did was try to protect his family, he didn't do nothing wrong," said Britany Jacobs, McGlockton's girlfriend. "He didn't do nothing wrong."
The family hired attorney Benjamin Crump, who had represented the family of Trayvon Martin. Crump called the deadly shooting a "cold-blooded murder" and called for changes to the Stand Your Ground law.
Some social activists suggested race played a role in the sheriff's decision - McGlockton is black and Drejka is white - but Gulatieri vehemently denied those accusations.
That didn't stop the Rev. Al Sharpton from coming to Clearwater last weekend for a rally in protest of the law. Sheriff Gulatieri later responded to Sharpton's criticisms by telling him to "go home."
Monday morning, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office issued the update on behalf of the State Attorney's Office, explaining that charges were being filed.
As of noon, Drejka was being booked into the Pinellas County Jail. His bond had been set at $100,000.
"My first thought on hearing this news was: It's about time," attorney Crump said in a statement. "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. 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," Crump continued. "We will continue to fight until justice is brought for the family of Markeis McGlockton."
McGlockton's family also released a statement saying the charges provide the family a small measure of comfort during their time of mourning.
"While this decision cannot bring back our partner, our son, our father, we take solace in knowing our voices are being heard as we work for justice," the family wrote. "This man killed Markeis in cold blood, without a second thought about the devastating impact his actions would have on our family, but this charge gives us a measure of hope that the truth will win and justice will prevail in the end."
The sheriff's office news release also included a statement from the sheriff supporting the arrest.
"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 stated.