Prosecutor overrules sheriff, charges Florida man in ‘stand your ground’ fatal shooting

LARGO, Fla. -- Michael Drejka, who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton after McGlockton shoved him in a Clearwater, Florida, convenience store parking lot, has been charged with manslaughter, officials said Monday.

"Consistent with the decision-making process established under Florida law in this case, the State Attorney conducted his review and decided to charge Drejka with manslaughter," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in a news release.

Previously, Gualtieri said the state's "stand your ground" laws prevented him from arresting Drejka last month.

Pinellas and Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe said he came to his decision to charge Drejka after a nine-day review that began August 1.

"We interviewed witnesses and looked at all the available surveillance video, and we made our decision to move forward based on all the information available," the prosecutor said.

Drejka, 47, was arrested Monday morning and booked into Pinellas County Jail. His bail is set at $100,000, the sheriff's office said. His first court appearance is set for Tuesday afternoon.

Family thankful

McGlockton's family praised the decision to charge Drejka.

"This man killed Markeis in cold blood, without a second thought about the devastating impact his actions would have on our family, but this charge gives us a measure of hope that the truth will win and justice will prevail in the end," a family statement said.

Attorney Michele Rayner appeared at an afternoon press conference with McGlockton's parents. "This is a very long road. This is the first step among many steps," Rayner said.

Rayner and the family said that manslaughter is the correct charge in the case.

Decision not to charge

Previously, Gualtieri repeatedly referenced the force with which McGlockton pushed Drejka.

"To arrest, it must be so clear that, as a matter of law, 'stand your ground' does not apply in any way to the facts and circumstances that you're presented with," Gualtieri said.

'Stand your ground' a license to kill, attorney says

His comments came after McGlockton's family and girlfriend slammed the decision not to arrest Drejka.

Drejka is white, and McGlockton was black.

Altercation was in parking lot

McGlockton, 28, died July 19 after the altercation, which began as an argument over a parking space. His girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, had parked in a handicapped parking space, and Drejka confronted her while McGlockton was inside the store.

McGlockton came outside, approached Drejka and shoved him to the ground, surveillance video shows. Drejka pulled out a handgun, and as McGlockton backed away from him, shot him in the chest.

"My decision not to arrest is merely doing what Florida law compels," Gualtieri said at the time. "A whole bunch of people have offered a whole bunch of different opinions. ... I'd suggest to you that the mere fact that so many people have so many different opinions validates the decision not to arrest Drejka (at) this stage."

According to the criminal complaint against him, Drejka said McGlockton tackled him and he was in fear during the incident, firing his gun in self-defense. But a detective wrote that Drejka was more than 10 feet away from McGlockton when he opened fire.

Praise from civil rights leaders

Gualtieri's initial decision not to file charges spurred cries from both sides of the political aisle, with some critics questioning whether the sheriff had correctly interpreted the law. After Monday's announcement, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the Rev. Al Sharpton were among those applauding McCabe's decision.

"The truth has finally cut through the noise," Crump said in a statement. "I have full faith that this truth will prevail to punish this coldblooded killer who angrily created the altercation that led to Markeis' needless death."

Florida's "stand your ground" law, perhaps the strongest in the country, grants immunity to the person acting in self-defense and puts the burden of proof on the state.

"I support the state attorney's decision and will have no further comment as the case continues to work its way through the criminal justice system," Gualtieri said in his Monday statement.