A white man who cited Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law after fatally shooting a Black man during a dispute over a parking space last year has been convicted of manslaughter.
Jurors in Clearwater, located roughly 25 miles west of Tampa, deliberated for six hours on Friday before announcing their verdict against Michael Drejka, 49, in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
Drejka’s attorneys reportedly plan to appeal the verdict after their client’s sentencing hearing, which has been scheduled for Oct. 10. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
The shooting occurred after McGlockton, a 28-year-old father of three, parked in a handicap spot outside a Clearwater convenience store in July 2018 while he ran inside with his 5-year-old son to purchase snacks, according to his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs.
Drejka, who told detectives he has a “pet peeve” about people illegally parking in handicap spaces, confronted Jacobs as she sat in the car waiting for her boyfriend to return.
“I was scared,” Jacobs, 26, reportedly told the jury. “I didn’t know who this strange, suspicious man was.”
Security video shows McGlockton leaving the store and shoving Drejka to the ground. Seconds later, Drejka shot McGlockton in the chest as he was backing away.
McGlockton, wounded, stumbled back into the store, where he died in front of his son.
Drejka “took the life of another human being without any legal justification,” Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub said at the trial, reported The Washington Post. “What have we come to in this country?”
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri originally chose not to arrest Drejka, citing Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows gun owners to use deadly force if they feel they are facing “imminent death or great bodily harm.” He said Drejka told police that he had feared for his life.
The case was then referred to state prosecutors who charged Drejka with manslaughter last August.
Gualtieri’s decision not to file charges sparked national outrage. The case drew comparisons to the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who said he felt threatened by him.
While Zimmerman did not invoke “stand your ground” in his defense, the judge instructed the jury on the law, and it was cited by a juror after the trial as a factor in their deliberations. Zimmerman’s acquittal prompted nationwide backlash and intense scrutiny of the “stand your ground” law.
Members of McGlockton’s family wept and clapped as the verdict was read aloud on Friday.
“This conviction doesn’t bring our son back, but it does give us some sense of justice because far too often the criminal justice system fails us by allowing people who take the lives of unarmed Black people to walk free as though their lives meant nothing,” McGlockton’s mother, Monica Robinson, said in a statement. “We are hopeful that this conviction will be a brick in the road to changing the culture of racism here in Florida.”