Lawyers for the loved ones of a man gunned down in a parking space dispute in Florida called on lawmakers Thursday to change the state’s “stand your ground” law to stop “wannabe cops from killing unarmed black men.”
During a press conference in front of the Pinellas Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater, Florida, lawyer Benjamin Crump said the law, enacted in 2005 to deter crime, has prompted an “epidemic” of unjustified shootings and nebulous claims of self-defense.
Markeis McGlockton, 28, was killed one week ago today after he shoved Michael Drejka, 47, to the ground when he saw Drejka berating his girlfriend for parking in a handicap zone. Surveillance video showed McGlockton apparently turning to retreat when Drejka, who had a legal concealed weapons permit, pulled out a gun and fatally shot him.
“We are here to demand justice for the cold-blooded murder of Markeis McGlockton by the self-appointed wannabe cop Michael Drejka,” said Crump, standing next to McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britney Jacobs, 24, and his parents, Monica Moore and Michael McGlockton.
He compared the shooting to other “stand your ground” cases in Florida, including that of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African-American who was shot dead by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012 in Sanford, Florida.
“Now you have Markeis McGlockton here in Pinellas County, Florida, where the individual is the initial aggressor, starts the confrontation and then kills the unarmed black person and claims it’s self-defense,” Crump said.
Crump said the only thing different between the killings of Trayvon and McGlockton is that there is a video showing McGlockton getting shot.
“Unfortunately, with Trayvon Martin, we didn’t have video,” Crump said. “This case here has video that clearly shows Markeis McGlockton was retreating, he was walking back.”
Crump, who represents Jacobs, the mother of McGlockton’s three young children, and Michele Rayner, the attorney for McGlockton’s parents, both said the video shows Drejka was the aggressor in the incident and contend he has no grounds to cite “stand your ground” as a defense.
“There are certainly some similarities to the Trayvon Martin tragedy when you think about the fact that the killer [of] Trayvon was the initial aggressor and the killer of Markeis McGlockton was the initial aggressor,” said Crump, who represented Trayvon’s family in the aftermath of the teen’s death.
“They started the confrontation. If they would have called the police and let the police do their job, none of us would be here,” Crump added. “In either scenario, they could have just let the police do their job, but these wanna-be cops initiated the confrontation and shot and killed in cold-blood these unarmed black men.”
Crump said he is asking the legislature to consider changing the law so that someone who is the aggressor will no longer be allowed “the benefit and the immunity of ‘stand your ground.'”
“We have to say no, this is not justice,” Crump said. “We will not continue to let this epidemic of being able to confront and kill unarmed black people and then say, ‘I was just standing my ground. It was just self-defense.’
“You can’t start a confrontation and kill somebody and say, ‘Oh, I was just standing my ground,'” Crump said.
Drejka has yet to speak publicly about the shooting. He has not responded to numerous requests from ABC News for comment.
After Drejka invoked the ‘stand your ground’ law, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to file charges against him.
“He had to shoot to defend himself,” Gualtieri, speaking at a press conference Friday, said of Drejka. “Those are the facts and that is the law. No matter how you slice it or dice it, that was a violent push to the ground.”
But Rayner said the ‘stand your ground’ statute requires the existence of a “reasonable fear that you are in imminent danger of losing your life or [suffering] great bodily injury.”
“It took four seconds for Mr. Drejka to make that decision, the conscious decision to murder Markeis McGlockton,” Rayner said as she dramatically counted off four seconds.
In addition to asking lawmakers to amend the law, she implored the Pinellas County State Attorney, Bernie McCabe, to file charges against Drejka.
Earlier this week, Rayner said McCabe had yet to receive the reports from the sheriff’s department on the case.
“We’re demanding that there is justice. We’re demanding that there is a full and thorough investigation,” Rayner said.
Crump added: “We have to tell our Florida legislature we understand that Florida has more gun-rights laws than any other state in America, but we have very little, if any, gun-responsibility laws.”
In the Trayvon Martin case, Zimmerman initially invoked “stand your ground” and was not arrested, sparking national protests. A special prosecutor was appointed by the governor to investigate and ended up charging Zimmerman with second-degree murder.
During his trial, Zimmerman did not use the stand your ground law as a defense. His attorneys, instead, argued basic self-defense and a jury acquitted him.
In another high-profile Florida case Crump cited, Corey Jones, a 31-year-old black man, was shot dead by a plainclothes police officer, Nouman Raja, in Palm Beach Gardens in 2015 after his car broke down on a dark road and he called for roadside assistance.
Raja cited the ‘stand your ground’ law, saying he shot Jones multiple times because he feared for his life when Jones, who had a legal concealed weapons permit, pulled a gun on him when he approached the man’s disabled car. Raja was eventually charged with manslaughter.
In June a judge ruled that Raja cannot use the ‘stand your ground’ defense, finding that he did not identify himself as a police officer when he approached Jones’ car. The judge based her ruling on an audio recording of Jones talking on his cell phone to a roadside assistance worker when Raja came up to his car.
Raja was also driving an unmarked cargo van at the time of the shooting.
Jacobs said she still cannot believe how McGlockton, her partner of nine years, was killed. She said her children, including 5-year-old Markeis Jr. who witnessed the shooting, keep asking her, “Where’s Daddy?”
“We need justice,” she said.
McGlockton’s father, Michael McGlockton, said his only child was killed doing what he raised him to do: Protecting his family.
“Any man out there would have did the exact same thing,” he said. “You don’t shoot a man because a man pushes you to the ground.
“Mr. Drejka pulled his gun out,” he said. “He had four seconds to think about it. He did not have to pull that trigger.”