Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Public safety

McGlockton’s father, sheriff respond to stand your ground shooter’s history of road rage

For Michael McGlockton, it’s clear the man who killed his son thought he was above the law.

"The guy has problems. It seems like he thinks that he is above the law. He thinks that he’s a vigilante cop or something," McGlockton, 46, said, responding to a Tampa Bay Times report revealing a history of road rage and gun threats for Michael Drejka, the man who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton.

The elder McGlockton added that, while he agrees with the concept of stand your ground, the way it has been applied in what he feels is an unjust way in cases such as his son’s means it should be repealed.

"It’s not worth it," he said. "At the end of the day, when I look at my community, it’s too many of my black kids dying behind the same law, and we get no justice from it at all."

His son was black. Drejka is white.

The case has drawn national attention and reignited a debate around the controversial self-defense law — and race’s role in how it’s applied.

Benjamin Crump, a civil rights lawyer known for representing the families of unarmed black men killed in violent encounters, has signed on to represent McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs. And five lawmakers have called for a Department of Justice civil rights investigation.

Crump said in an interview after reading the Times report that Drejka’s history shows he has a hot temper that calls his mindset into question.

"It certainly contributes to the notion that this self-appointed, wannabe cop was the initial aggressor and should not have gotten the benefit or the protection of stand your ground," Crump said.

"I think certainly it suggests what his mentality likely was when he initiated this confrontation," he continued.

READ THE REPORT: Records show road rage, gun threats in stand your ground shooter’s past.

The Times found that Drejka, who shot and killed McGlockton during a fight over a parking space, has been the accused aggressor in four prior incidents since 2012.

Three were documented in police reports, all involving road rage. Witnesses accused him of flashing a gun in two cases. In the third, a state trooper cited Drejka after he braked in front of a woman driving with two children.

In a fourth incident, not reported to police at the time, a man who had parked in the same handicap-reserved parking space McGlockton’s girlfriend had parked in July 19 said Drejka confronted and eventually threatened to kill him.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri did not arrest Drejka, citing Florida’s stand your ground law. In an interview with the Times, Gualtieri said he knew about one of the documented cases before announcing his decision. The other two he found out about after the fact, including one he learned of from the report.

The relevance of his prior acts will be argued in court, the sheriff said — if Drejka is charged. The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case to make a final decision whether to charge Drejka, send the case to a grand jury or close the case without charging him.

The sheriff said he had to make a quick decision based on the facts of the shooting.

"The determination I had to make at that time was ‘Is ... this incident clearly as a matter of law outside the boundaries of stand your ground where he (Drejka) should be sitting in jail while the state attorney ponders this?’" he said.

ORIGINAL STORY: No arrest in fatal shooting during argument over handicap parking space

DOUBLING DOWN: Sheriff Gualtieri defends ‘stand your ground’ decision in convenience store shooting

The encounter started when Drejka confronted Jacobs about why she had parked in the space without a permit. A heated argument ensued, which McGlockton heard about while he was buying snacks inside the store.

Surveillance video shows him leaving the store, walking up to Drejka and pushing him to the ground. Drejka then pulls out a gun and shoots him.

The sheriff has faced backlash from all sides for his call not to arrest Drejka, most recently on Sunday when The Rev. Al Sharpton during a visit to Clearwater emphasized that race was a factor in Drejka’s lack of an arrest and called for the sheriff to "lock him up or give up your badge."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: From Clearwater church, Sharpton and gubernatorial candidates call for ‘stand your ground’ repeal.

Crump said Drejka’s prior history is more evidence that Drejka initiated confrontations with people of color. In one road rage case, documented by a Largo police officer, several people in a car accused Drejka of threatening them with a gun.

When Drejka was asked what the man in the other car had said, the police officer wrote that "Michael contorted his face while doing a gruff Spanish accent, saying ‘You got a gun in your truck, you got a gun in your truck.’"

Drejka denied that he showed his gun. The report doesn’t note the race of the victims.

And Rick Kelly, the man who parked in the same parking space at the Circle A Food Store near Clearwater, said in an interview that Drejka used a racial slur while confronting him. Kelly is black.

"It is clear that not only Drejka was a wannabe cop," Crump said, "but he was a hot-headed short-tempered wannabe cop who liked to take the law into his own hands and had a propensity of initiating confrontations with people of color."

The shooting has led to a near-constant flurry of action in the community, from a vigil to rallies to news conferences at churches and the county courthouse. Michael McGlockton, 46, has attended them all, often standing somber-faced next to Jacobs; his son’s mother, Monica Moore-Robinson; and, sometimes, his 5-year-old grandson, named after his son.

Markeis Jr. witnessed much of the violence and watched as his mom put pressure on his father’s wound inside the convenience store. Their two other children, a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old, were in the car through it all.

Michael McGlockton said his son did what any man would have done — and exactly what he raised his son to do.

"I stand behind everything that my son did," he said. "You don’t let anybody mess with your family ... I play it back in my mind every single day: Would I have done the exact same thing? Of course."

At the very least, the law should have more clarity about when deadly force can be used and what can be considered a reasonable fear of one’s life, he said.

But he’d rather see it go. He doesn’t believe his son would have died had the law not existed.

Drejka fired because he knew he could hide behind the law, McGlockton said. Without it, "he would have thought twice before he pulled that trigger."

Contact Kathryn Varn at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.

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