Friday, August 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Sharpton wrong to call for sheriff’s badge in stand your ground case

The Rev. Al Sharpton misfired when he suggested Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was influenced by racial considerations when he decided not to arrest Michael Drejka for shooting and killing Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot because of the stand your ground law. Sharpton also was flat wrong to demand that Gualtieri arrest Drejka or resign. The protests and the demands for change should be directed at the indefensible stand your ground law and the National Rifle Association’s puppets in the Florida Legislature who voted for it.

Hundreds of people jammed into a Clearwater church Sunday and heard Sharpton criticize Gualtieri’s decision not to arrest Drejka for killing McGlockton on July 19 after Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend over parking in a handicap space. Sharpton focused on race; Drejka, 47, is white, and McGlockton, 28, was black. "(Drejka) killed an unarmed black man who was standing up for his family,’’ Sharpton told the audience as he criticized Gualtieri. "Lock him up, or give up your badge.’’

Watch the video of the shooting, and different viewers will reach different conclusions. Drejka approaches the car and questions McGlockton’s girlfriend with their young children inside the car. McGlockton comes out of the store and pushes Drejka to the ground. Drejka shoots McGlockton, who staggers back into the store as Drejka keeps his gun trained on him. The Tampa Bay Times has received hundreds of letters from readers who have passionately argued both sides.

Gualtieri, who is a lawyer, reasonably decided not to arrest Drejka because of the 2005 stand your ground law that eliminated any duty to retreat if you can safely escape. Instead, the law allows a person to stand their ground any place where they have a right to be if they reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or commission of a forcible felony like robbery. Even worse, the Legislature in 2017 shifted and raised the burden of proof in stand your ground hearings to require the prosecutor to show the defendant is not immune from prosecution — not to require the defendant to show he qualifies for immunity. That’s upside down.

Sharpton should have sought guidance from some of Pinellas County’s most influential black elected leaders before he questioned Gualtieri’s motives and demanded his badge. State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Pinellas County Commission Chairman Ken Welch and Pinellas County School Board Chairwoman Rene Flowers each told the Times editorial board Monday they are not calling for Gualtieri’s resignation. They believe Drejka should be charged with a crime, but they know the sheriff and over the years have found him to be fair but firm. Like all five Democratic candidates for governor who attended the event Sunday, they want the stand your ground law to be repealed or reworked. Rouson is pushing the Legislature to call a special session to take up the issue, a worthy cause that Republicans likely will reject.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe now has to decide whether to charge Drejka with a crime, and it appears to be a close call either way. He may reach a different conclusion than Gualtieri about the impact of the stand your ground law in this case. But it’s unfair for Sharpton or anyone else to question the motives of the sheriff or the state attorney at this point. Let the process work, let all of the evidence come out and direct the protests and the criticism where it belongs: The Florida Legislature, which crafted a law that has fostered vigilante justice and become a license to kill.

Comments
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. It’s time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

Blood on the streets of Chicago

A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season — when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18