CLEARWATER — Supporters gathered at Mount Zion United Methodist Church Saturday afternoon to share prayers and Publix party platters with the family of Markeis McGlockton, the 28-year-old father whose 2018 shooting death launched a stand your ground case that captivated the nation.
The night before, just before 11 p.m.,a six-member jury had delivered a result that many gathered in the pews had been skeptical was possible: The panel found Michael Drejka guilty of manslaughter for fatally shooting McGlockton in an argument over a handicapped parking space. McGlockton’s girlfriend and young children had watched from their car as he was shot.
Drejka’s attorneys argued the shooting was justified under Florida’s stand your ground law, thrusting the controversial defense back into the public consciousness in yet another racially tinged shooting that sparked protests. Drejka is white; McGlockton was black and unarmed. There were no blacks on the jury.
“This is a historic moment because it is important to know that equal justice is possible for black and brown people in America,” said Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights attorney who helped represent McGlockton’s family.
Crump said the case will help change the narrative on race and equality in Florida. “There are more people out there in America who care about the morals of a man than the color of his skin,” Crump said.
When she learned Drejka had been found guilty, McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, rushed home to wake up one of her sons.
“I said, ‘Baby, we got justice for Daddy,’ ” Jacobs said Saturday. “He said, ‘Mommy, that’s good.’ I told my baby girl too, and she said ‘Mommy, you did good. I’m proud of you.’ ”
The case isn’t over. Drejka’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 10, and his attorneys say they plan to appeal the verdict.
“He was prepared for either outcome," said Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, one of Drejka’s attorneys. “He did not come into this thinking it was a slam dunk.”
On Saturday, the speakers spent time thanking McGlockton’s supporters. As people smiled and cried and clapped their hands, 26-year-old Jacobs stood silently to the side with her boyfriend’s father – grateful but somber.
"In the days after all this happened, I was walking around in a daze, and I didn’t know which way to turn,” said McGlockton’s father, Michael McGlockton. “There were a lot of times where we wanted to give up. The community didn’t let us give up. And if we had given up then, we would have never seen this day.”
McGlockton’s father will remember how he used to paint and sing and make him laugh. Jacobs will remember how excited he was the day she delivered their firstborn.
“There have been many nights, many days, where all I could do was just cry, cry, cry,” Jacobs said. “But I know he’s looking down at us now, and I know he’s happy that I stood up and did what I had to do.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story described the makeup of the jury incorrectly.
Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.