An event that occurred in Clearwater, Florida, a little more than a week ago illustrates why it is so important to think before inserting yourself into a situation that might escalate into a lethal encounter.

You may have already seen the surveillance video. If not, I encourage you to check it out.

The Tampa Bay Times reported the following on July 30, 2018:

“The confrontation between Michael Drejka, 47, and Markeis McGlockton, 28, took place in a convenience store parking lot Thursday afternoon. According to deputies, Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about parking in a handicap space without a permit.

“McGlockton went up to Drejka and ‘slammed him to the ground,’ the sheriff said. Drejka, seconds later, while still on the ground, pulled out his handgun and shot McGlockton in the chest.”

Because McGlockton needlessly and violently assaulted him, no charges have been filed against Drejka, who was legally carrying his handgun. But there is more to the story. Again, according to the Tampa Bay Times:

“It wasn’t the first time [the store owner] saw Drejka in a fight with another customer. A couple of months back, Rick Kelly stopped by the store, parking his tanker truck in the same handicap spot. The details to Thursday’s incident are similar: Drejka walking around the truck checking for decals, then confronting Kelly, 31, about why he parked there. The fight escalated, and Drejka threatened to shoot him, Kelly said.”

And it gets worse.

“Records show Drejka does not have a criminal history in Florida, although the Sheriff’s Office had prior contact with him in 2012 when a driver accused him of pulling a gun during a road rage incident. Drejka denied he showed the gun, and the accuser declined to press charges.”

We at the USCCA have trained thousands of men and women of all ages to protect themselves. So naturally, we cringe when we see cases like this because regardless of how it ends up, several ancillary consequences will likely result.

First, while Drejka may have escaped criminal prosecution, there is a high probability of a civil lawsuit, in which the standard of proof is much lower than it is in a criminal trial. Note that Drejka was the one who initiated the confrontation with someone who appeared to be illegally parking in a handicapped parking spot. Additionally, Drejka’s previous confrontations give a plaintiff’s attorney even more ammunition.

Another problem is that cases like this invite more attacks on our self-defense rights. For example, much of the news coverage of this case clearly blamed Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law for what happened. And remember, a significant percentage of the population does not even understand the law.

All of us who carry should try to learn from cases like this. For starters, conflict avoidance is (or should be) one of our basic rules. That is why we constantly emphasize the importance of avoiding road rage.

Likewise, a fatal shooting over a parking place is not just pointless; it is downright stupid. I see people parking illegally every day. I ignore them not only because nothing I say will likely change their behavior but also because I am not the parking police, and neither are you. More importantly, it just is not worth the risk.

Instead, be smart. Take a breath. Walk away.