Democratic congressional lawmakers on Friday asked the Department of Justice to weigh whether criminal charges should be filed in the death of a Florida father who was gunned down last weekin a case of “stand your ground.”
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson tweeted that he sent a signed letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore, of the DOJ’s civil rights division, for an investigation to be opened. Florida congressmen Charlie Crist and Alcee Hastings, as well as California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker also signed their support.
“The Justice Department must actively investigate violent crimes with potential racial undertones to determine if charges should be filed,” Hastings said in a statement. “Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has created a culture of impunity where communities of color are disproportionately affected.”
The DOJ declined to comment about the letter.
State prosecutors are currently reviewing if charges are warranted against 47-year-old Michael Drejka, who is white. Police say he fatally shot Markeis McGlockton, a 28-year-old black man, during an argument over a parking space on July 19.
McGlockton, his girlfriend Britany Jacobs, and their three young children pulled into a Clearwater convenience store and parked in handicapped spot.
As McGlockton went inside with his 5-year-old son, Drejka began questioning Jacobs about the space and the pair got into an argument, police said. Surveillance video showed McGlockton emerging from the store and shoving Drejka to the ground.
In response, Drejka pulled a gun and shot McGlockton in the chest, police said, although it appeared the young father was stepping away from him. He later died at the hospital.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said last week that he would not charge Drejka in the case because he was claiming self-defense, and it appeared McGlockton started the incident by physically assaulting Drejka.
But the McGlockton family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, said Thursday that Drejka was the aggressor by initially approaching Jacobs, and McGlockton was only trying to defend his girlfriend from him.
“It’s still ludicrous how you can claim you have fear for your life, yet you approach and start the confrontation with the individuals,” Crump told reporters.
Attempts by NBC News to reach Drejka have been unsuccessful.
Florida has been at the center of “stand your ground” cases over the years, allowing citizens to use force if they feel as if their lives are in danger.
Some state lawmakers have called for the law to be repealed in the wake of McGlockton’s death, and have been critical of how it affects people of color. A 2015 study in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that a person charged in a “stand your ground” case is twice as likely to be convicted of a crime if they killed a white victim as opposed to a minority.