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Last month, Pinellas County sheriffs declined to press charges after Michael Drejka gunned down Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot, claiming the shooting was "within the bookends of 'stand your ground' and within the bookends of force being justified." Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at the time, "I'm not saying I agree with it, but I don't make that call."
Pinellas County prosecutors, however, did make that call this week, charging Drejka with manslaughter. Why the change of course?
According to Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Pinellas sheriff's Detective George Moffett, Drejka had quite a history confronting people on the road he didn't like, often threatening them with a gun. The Orlando Sentinel reports that two different drivers reported that Drejka waved a gun at them during road rage confrontations in 2012. Officers stopped Drejka both times and found a gun in his car, but he denied threatening other drivers with it.
Then, three months before Drejka (who is white) shot McGlockton (who was black), a black man who drives a septic truck told investigators he parked in the same handicapped-accessible spot at the convenience store as McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs. The man claimed Drejka began yelling at him, said he would shoot him, and shouted racial slurs as he drove away. Drejka later called the man's boss, telling him "that he was lucky he didn't blow his employee's head off."
Drejka was not arrested or charged in any of the previous incidents, but they may provide insight into whether his belief that using deadly force against McGlockton was reasonable under Florida's "stand your ground" statute.
Florida's manslaughter laws, on the other hand, define the crime as: "The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification." Drejka will likely argue that he was justified under the "stand your ground" law, and the confrontation that preceded the shooting will be essential evidence.
Jacobs claims Drejka confronted her for being parked in the handicapped space while McGlockton had gone into the store with his 5-year-old son, also named Markeis. McGlockton apparently got wind of the altercation, and surveillance footage shows him leaving the store and shoving Drejka to the ground, away from the car window. Drejka pulls a handgun and McGlockton backs about 10-12 feet away from him. Drejka fires anyway, hitting McGlockton in the chest. McGlockton then retreated back into the store, where he died in front of his son.
Drejka was being held at the county jail on $100,000 bail, and could be facing 9-15 years in prison if convicted.