In a test of the self-defense law known as “stand your ground,” a Florida jury Friday night found Michael Drejka guilty of manslaughter for killing Markeis McGlockton after an argument over a parking spot escalated outside a convenience store in Clearwater, Fla., last summer.
After fatally shooting McGlockton, who was black and unarmed, Drejka, who is white, was not arrested for three weeks because of the state’s self-defense laws, according to the local sheriff.
The citing of the law, as well as the races of the men, reminded many of the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Sanford, Fla., in 2012.
Prosecutors in Florida’s Pinellas County eventually charged Drejka with one count of manslaughter. He did not testify in the trial, according to the Associated Press, and the six-person jury deliberated for about six hours Friday.
The maximum sentence Drejka could face is 30 years in prison. He had been free on bond since September 2018, but a judge remanded him to jail after the verdict, according to court records.
On July 19, 2018, McGlockton, 28, was in the convenience store with his 5-year-old son while his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, and two small children were sitting in a car parked in a handicapped space. Drejka, 49, approached the car and started arguing with Jacobs about parking in the space without a handicap permit, according to the sheriff.
In grainy surveillance footage of the scene, McGlockton leaves the store, then approaches Drejka and shoves him to the ground. McGlockton then appears to take a few steps back from Drejka, who pulls out a gun while sitting on the pavement and shoots McGlockton once in the chest.
McGlockton was seen stumbling back into the store, clutching his wound. He collapsed next to his son and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Originally passed in 2005, the stand your ground law allows people to use deadly force without first trying to retreat from a dangerous situation if they “reasonably believe” that their lives are threatened. The law received support from the National Rifle Association, but was vigorously opposed by law enforcement officers.
A majority of states have adopted laws that are similar to Florida’s, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature strengthened the law, shifting the burden of proof to prosecutors: Defendants are no longer required to offer evidence, typically by taking the stand, to prove their claim.
Critics of the law say it is a shoot-first law that inflames already violent confrontations.