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Five times Florida's 'stand your ground' law sparked controversy

Rodney Cox, 35, shown fishing in this undated photo, was fatally shot on Nov. 3, 2004. The general contractor from North Carolina was in hurricane-damaged Pensacola to work for FEMA when he was killed. He left behind a wife and two children, Samantha and Corey, who were 3 and 11 at the time of his death. Proponents of Florida's "stand your ground" law pointed to his shooting as the reason citizens needed legal protection when they used deadly force on intruders. [Courtesy of Terri Cox Lavery]
Published Jul. 23, 2018

Florida's controversial self-defense law is in the news again.

The killing of Markeis McGlockton, a 28-year-old who was shot by another man after the two argued over a parking space on Thursday, is just the most recent in a long succession of controversies over the law commonly known as "stand your ground." Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced his office wouldn't charge McGlockton's killer, 47-year-old Michael Drejka, on Friday.

Here's a look back into the Tampa Bay Times archive for five times "stand your ground," which exempts from prosecution those who use deadly force to protect themselves if they fear for their lives, has made news.

From the archives: 'Stand your ground' law protects those who go far beyond that point

1. The 2012 death of Trayvon Martin

In perhaps the most famous "stand your ground" case ever, George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter after killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

BACK STORY: George Zimmerman found not guilty in Trayvon Martin's death.

On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman called the police on Martin, who was walking through his neighborhood, because he suspected Martin may have been connected to a string of local burglaries. Martin, who noticed Zimmerman following him, began to run away from the neighborhood watch volunteer. Police told Zimmerman he didn't have to pursue Martin, but Zimmerman did anyway, according to contemporaneous news media reports

of the 911 call placed by Zimmerman. The two eventually got into an altercation which left Martin dead.

Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. He claimed self defense under Florida's broad "stand your ground" law, citing injuries he sustained during the confrontation, and in 2013, he was acquitted. Martin's death — and Zimmerman's acquittal — sparked national protests and helped give rise to the national Black Lives Matter movement.

2. The 2014 Pasco County movie theater shooting

On Jan. 13, 2014, Curtis Reeves, a retired Tampa police captain took exception to a fellow moviegoer's cell phone use during previews at a Wesley Chapel movie theater. He asked the man, Chad Oulson, to turn off the phone, and the two began to argue. Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves. Reeves responded by shooting Oulson in the chest, killing him.

BACK STORY: Appeals court denies challenge to 'stand your ground' ruling in Pasco theater shooting.

Reeves has tried to claim self defense under the "stand your ground" law, but he has thus far been unsuccessful. In May, an appeals court denied his challenge to a 2017 ruling that he was not exempt from prosecution under the law. A trial date for Reeves has been set for Feb. 25, 2019. However, it is unknown to what extent recent changes to the "stand your ground law" passed by the Florida Legislature could affect Reeve's case.

MORE ON THE CHANGE HERE: Florida lawmakers changed 'stand your ground' law. Chaos followed.

3. The case that started it all in 2004

Florida lawmakers cited the case of James Workman, 77, when they called for a change to existing criminal law in 2004. Workman shot and killed Rodney Cox, 35, after Cox entered his home in the middle of the night of Nov. 2. Legislators bemoaned the fact that Workman had to spend almost three months in legal purgatory before authorities announced he would not be charged in Cox's killing.

"You're entitled to protect your castle," Durell Peaden, a Republican state senator who sponsored the "stand your ground" law, said in 2005. "Why should you have to hire a lawyer to say, 'This guy is innocent'?"

However, as a 2012 Tampa Bay Times story notes, the facts of the case were not as simple as lawmakers presented them. Workman never hired a lawyer. Cox did not interact with Workman until after Workman walked outside to confront the man lurking in his yard. And it was only after Workman fired a warning shot into the ground that Cox, who was likely intoxicated at the time of the incident, entered Workman's home, per the 2012 story.

BACK STORY: Florida's 'stand your ground' law was born of 2004 case, but story has been distorted.

According to that story, the Workmans felt conflicted about the National Rifle Association-backed law their case spawned. "We didn't ask for any of this," Workman's wife, Kathryn, told the Times. And Workman said in 2005 he was "kind of in favor of" the law, but he "can see some pitfalls if you make it too loose.

4. Tampa man kills father of three in 2015; calls 'stand your ground' hotline

In the early hours of Sept. 19, 2015, Nick Julian IV made two important phone calls. The first was a 911 call to report that he had shot an unarmed man who he claimed attacked him. The second was to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, which at the time offered inexpensive legal counsel for members who found themselves in Julian's predicament.

Julian, 26, had been arguing with Carlos Garcia, 37, for several minutes because of the loud music coming from Garcia's car. Julian confronted Garcia about the music several times, and eventually the incident became violent. According to the shooter's father, Garcia chased after Julian before Julian shot him.

"He came at me with something. I don't know what it was because it was dark, but I started to go towards my door, once he got me towards my screen door, I just, I had no choice, I, I'm on my property…" Julian told a police dispatcher in a 911 call.

BACK STORY: Tampa man shoots father of three, then calls 'stand your ground' hotline.

Two months after the shooting, Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober said he would not press charges against Julian.

5. Thursday.

Markeis McGlockton, 28, had exited a car parked in a handicap spot outside the Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road near Clearwater. He went into the story to buy chips and drinks, leaving his girlfriend and two of their children, ages four months and three years, in the car. He took his 5-year-old with him into the store.

THE LATEST CASE: No arrest in fatal shooting during argument over handicap parking space.

Michael Drejka, 47, a man with a reported history of taking exception to illegal parking at that store, confronted McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, after searching the outside of the car for proof that it could occupy a handicapped space.

A video taken of the incident showed McGlockton exiting the store and shoving Drejka to the ground. Drejka then pulled out a handgun and shot McGlockton in the chest. He owned the gun legally and had a concealed carry permit, Gualtieri said.

Friday, the sheriff announced Drejka's actions met the legal definition of self defense.

Times staff writer Kirby Wilson can be reached at kwilson@tampabay.com. Follow @KirbyWTweets.

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