Anyone who carries a firearm for personal protection should take note of the verdict in a dispute over a handicap parking spot that led to a shooting in Clearwater, Florida, on July 19, 2018.
For those unfamiliar with this case, it began when Britany Jacobs, Markeis McGlockton’s 24-year-old girlfriend, pulled into the Circle A Food Store in Clearwater. She waited in the car while McGlockton went inside with his young son.
It was then that Michael Drejka, age 47, walked over to her car and started yelling at Jacobs for parking in a handicapped-accessible spot. Surveillance footage then shows McGlockton exiting the store, approaching Drejka and shoving him to the ground. While still down, Drejka can be seen pulling out a gun and shooting McGlockton once.
Drejka was not immediately charged in the incident. Authorities cited the defendant’s claim that he was acting in self-defense and had no duty to retreat under Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
But after extensive media attention the state attorney’s office reversed its original stance and brought second-degree manslaughter charges.
The Verdict Against Drejka
The prosecution presented Drejka as an armed vigilante. Drejka’s attorney claimed that his client was in fear of death or serious bodily harm at the hands of McGlockton and acted in self-defense.
But on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, after only six hours of deliberation, the jury brought back a guilty verdict. Drejka faces up to 30 years in prison.
Note that even though McGlockton had drugs in his system and did actually attack Drejka, it had no effect on the jury’s decision.
Regardless of the ultimate verdict, both individuals involved in this case clearly made some truly bad decisions. Drejka, who already had a history of getting into prior incidents involving handicapped parking spaces, had no business confronting Jacobs.
McGlockton, for his part, completely overreacted. Instead of simply asking what was going on, he immediately approached Drejka and shoved him to the ground. As a result, he’s now dead.
‘Stand Your Ground’ – No Guarantees
Contrary to the rants on Twitter and other social media, stand your ground laws are NOT some sort of legal kevlar vest in a self-defense scenario. True, such laws do remove the need to retreat before acting in self-defense. But all the fundamental common law principles of self-defense still apply. For example, you are still expected to avoid initiating any conflict, even verbally.
And as always, you must convince a jury that it was reasonable for you to fear death or great bodily harm. This is always difficult when your assailant is young, of small stature or described as unarmed … as McGlockton was.
This case is yet another illustration of how the most effective strategy for staying out of prison is to avoid getting into unnecessary confrontations in the first place. Like road rage, deciding to act as the “parking lot police” can easily escalate into serious and unnecessary trouble.
If you carry a gun, act only when and where there is a clear and immediate threat to you or anyone else. To allow minor transgressions by others to “trip your (emotional) trigger” will inevitably get you into situations that will not turn out well for you.
About John Caile
John Caile is an NRA Firearms Instructor Certified in Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm Safety and Personal Protection in the Home. He has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. John was communications director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee and was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. He is a contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine and has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and has been frequently published in the press. John lives in Palm Coast, Florida, where he continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights.