CLEARWATER — Family members of Markeis McGlockton implored the state attorney during a news conference Tuesday to file charges in the death of their loved one.
McGlockton’s mother, father and girlfriend, alongside three attorneys, spoke of McGlockton as a loving son and father of three who enjoyed to sing and was always there for his children.
McGlockton, 28, was shot by 47-year-old Michael Drejka last week during a fight over a parking space in what Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri deemed a justified use of force under Florida’s controversial "stand your ground" self-defense law.
"We’re asking the office of Bernie McCabe to file charges against Mr. Drejka," said Clearwater attorney Michele Rayner, "because if not, they’re sanctioning a murder, plain and simple."
Rayner, along with her law partner, Daphne Robinson, and Pinellas Park lawyer Kelly McCabe, are representing Markeis’ parents, Michael McGlockton and Monica Moore-Robinson.
Rayner said they are of the opinion the shooting does not meet criteria under "stand your ground," which eliminated one’s duty to retreat during a violent situation before resorting to self-defense. Drejka told deputies he was in fear of further attack during the encounter, which arose after he confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about why she had parked in a handicap parking space without a permit.
The argument grew heated enough that witnesses came inside the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road to alert the clerk. A surveillance video released by the Sheriff’s Office shows McGlockton, who was inside with his 5-year-old son, leave the store, walk up to Drejka and shove him to the ground.
That doesn’t constitute imminent danger, Rayner said, although the sheriff said during a news conference Friday "we don’t get to substitute our judgment for Drejka’s judgment." While the video didn’t have sound, Jacobs said the men did not exchange words from the time Drejka hit the ground to the time he shot. McGlockton spoke to Drejka before he shoved him, telling him to get away from his girl.
What is most telling, Rayner said, is that, according to Jacobs, who put pressure on the wound after the shooting, McGlockton was shot in the left side of the abdomen. That’s contrary to a widely reported detail from the Sheriff’s Office that the bullet struck him in the chest.
"If he was advancing and getting ready to do more harm to Mr. Drejka, why was he shot on his side when he was getting ready to turn around?" Rayner said.
The Medical Examiner’s Office has not released an autopsy to the family, she later added. A Sheriff’s Office spokesman declined to comment on the family’s allegation, referring a reporter back to a news conference in which Gualtieri said the man was hit in the chest.
Rayner emphasized that Drejka provoked the fight and is "hiding behind the law of ‘stand your ground.’" The conversation turned to an encounter Drejka had last month at the same food store.
Rick Kelly told the Tampa Bay Times last week that Drejka confronted him for parking in the same spot. The argument escalated, and Drejka threatened to shoot him before the store owner diffused the situation.
Michael McGlockton said he believes the incident shows Drejka was looking for a fight.
"This man came to me," Jacobs, 25, said. "This man was armed. He could have killed my whole family. I don’t know this man... and Markeis did not know this man at all ... All he was trying to do was protect what was his, and that was his family, that was his kids."
The case has thrown the "stand your ground" law into the national conversation, with elected officials and community leaders calling for reform. Rayner touched on what she said were problems with the law. It’s too loosely applied, she said, and disproportionately hurts people of color. McGlockton was black. Drejka is white.
Plus, she added, under the law, even if Gualtieri had arrested Drejka, a successful "stand your ground" defense in court would open his agency to a lawsuit.
"The sheriff ... should not have to worry about being open to litigation about making a lawful arrest," she said.
McGlockton’s family struggled through tears at times to talk about him and the children who would grow up without a father. McGlockton’s 5-year-old son, named after him, witnessed his dad stumble into the convenience store after the shooting.
"We just want justice," Michael McGlockton said. "That’s all."
Times staff writer Josh Solomon contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.