Pinellas commissioners support changing stand your ground law

Pinellas County commissioners vote during a special meeting last year. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
Pinellas County commissioners vote during a special meeting last year. JIM DAMASKE | Times
Published August 7 2018
Updated August 8 2018

Pinellas County commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday in support of state lawmakers clarifying Florida's stand your ground law, adding their voices to the debate stemming from the shooting of Markeis McGlockton.

Commission Chairman Ken Welch introduced the resolution, saying there's "concern throughout the community" around the shooting and a lack of clarity with the law that has led to conflicting opinions on Sheriff Bob Gualtieri's decision not to arrest McGlockton's shooter.

"It's clear evidence that the law is broken," Welch said. "It's a real concern in the community — the way that law is being interpreted … back in my day a push … ended in a fist fight, and now it ends in someone being killed because of a parking space, and that's not the kind of environment or community that we want."

The resolution passed 6-0, with Commissioner Pat Gerard absent. The vote by the commission's remaining three Republicans and three Democrats was a rare bipartisan consensus in what has become a polarizing debate over the law and its application in this case.

The resolution supports Sen. Darryl Rouson's call for a special session to discuss stand your ground and changing the law to clarify when it can be used.

It also calls to eliminate protection for those who provoke confrontation and who respond disproportionately with deadly force. There is a section in Florida law that says you can't claim self-defense if you initially provoke the use of force against you, but generally legal provocation is a higher bar than a verbal confrontation, legal experts say.

McGlockton, 28, was shot July 19 by 47-year-old Michael Drejka at a convenience store near Clearwater. Drejka confronted McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, after she parked in a handicap-reserved parking space. McGlockton, who was in the store with his 5-year-old son, learned of the argument, left the store and pushed Drejka to the ground.

Gualtieri announced the next day his agency was precluded from arresting Drejka because of stand your ground. The case has reignited a national debate around the law and, locally, sparked news conferences, rallies and a visit by The Rev. Al Sharpton.

At Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Dave Eggers talked about his own experience with a tense encounter in which he pulled in front of someone while driving. The man got out and went up to his window yelling. Eggers stayed in his car but wondered how it would have been viewed if he had gotten out.

"Would that have been viewed as aggressive? And then he can defend himself?" Eggers said. "There are so many gray areas … I think clarity is important in all of this."

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