Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum called Monday for Gov. Rick Scott to issue a state of emergency to suspend the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law because police didn’t arrest a white man who started an argument and then killed an unarmed black man – over a parking spot.
“Stand Your Ground has created an opportunity for vigilantes to precipitate conflict and (then) hide behind Stand Your Ground as a legitimate defense to take someone’s life,” Gillum said. “It is, in fact, an emergency in the state of Florida – particularly for communities of color.”
In asking for Gov. Scott to issue the executive order to put the Stand Your Ground law on hold until the Legislature can revisit it, Gillum pointed out that Scott recently issued an executive order over a new law regarding the public’s access to Florida beaches. He said this issue is more critical.
Scott’s press secretary Ashley Cook offered this statement from Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis:
“The Governor expects that every Florida law be enforced and applied fairly by law enforcement and state attorneys, who are elected by Floridians. If the Legislature wants to make any changes to clarify Florida’s laws next legislative session, they can do so.”
On July 19, 47-year-old Michael Drejka, who is white, started an argument and then shot and killed 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton, who is black. Drejka initiated the dispute over a handicapped parking space outside a Clearwater convenience store. McGlockton was unarmed. He had run into the store with his five-year-old, leaving his girlfriend of nine years and their other two children – one age three and one just four months old – in the car.
McGlockton’s girlfriend told CNN that Drejka – a stranger – drove up, parked, and started walking around her and her kids in their car. He “started yelling and cursing,” over the fact that McGlockton had parked in a handicapped space. When McGlockton came out of the store and saw Drejka confronting his family, he immediately intervened and pushed Drejka to the ground. While seated on the pavement, Drejka pulled a gun out and shot McGlockton in the chest, security footage shows. Mortally wounded, McGlockton fled into the convenience store, where he collapsed in front of his five-year-old son.
The family was shocked when law enforcement authorities didn’t arrest Drejka for the killing. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he didn’t arrest Drejka because Florida’s Stand Your Ground law applied.
Questions started flying as soon as the public saw the security camera’s footage. The Stand Your Ground law gives immunity to those who use force to defend themselves if they fear for their lives. Some observers said Drejka could have fought with his fists if he felt threatened; McGlockton was unarmed and stepping back as Drejka gunned him down.
State Rep. Bruce Antone, who chairs the Florida legislative black caucus, said in a statement: “The Sheriff’s decision not to charge Michael Drejka with a crime is a travesty of justice.”
In the state Legislature, there’s a move to hold a special session to deal with the Stand Your Ground law, but it appears unlikely to happen at this point.
Gillum said he was in Clearwater over the weekend with NAACP members and others gathered at a local church to mourn McGlockton’s death.
“The fact that the murderer is sitting at home on his couch – that’s a big problem,” Gillum said at a Tallahassee news conference Monday. Gillum, who is mayor of Tallahassee, is among five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for governor in the Aug. 28 primary.
“Until the Legislature can come together,” he said, “Let’s make sure that all citizens are protected.”
The legislative black caucus plans to introduce bills to change the Stand Your Ground law “to eliminate the ambiguity and confusion that exists” when the Legislature convenes next spring, its members said in a statement.
The McGlockton family has hired Florida attorney Ben Crump to represent them.
“There is enough evidence in this case to charge this murderer with a crime,” Crump said at a July 26 press conference in Pinellas County.
Crump represented the family of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and shot to death by George Zimmerman in the Central Florida town of Sanford in 2012. Zimmerman escaped prosecution due to the Stand Your Ground law, sparking national outrage.
Crump says McGlockton’s death has many similarities to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
“The killer of Trayvon Martin was the initial aggressor and the killer of Markeis was the initial aggressor” who “kills the unarmed black person and claims it is self defense.”
He said McGlockton’s girlfriend had reason to be afraid when sitting in the car “with her babies” when a strange man started yelling at her and “pointing his finger through the window.” McGlockton had every right to protect his family, Crump said.
Crump said looking at the video frame by frame, you can see that McGlockton is moving backwards to retreat after he knocks Drejka to the ground. That’s when Drejka pulls the gun and shoots.
“It is not reasonable for him to shoot and kill a person who is retreating,” Crump said.
National civil rights leader Al Sharpton plans a rally to protest McGlockton’s death on Sunday, August 5, at St Johns Primitive Baptist Church in Clearwater.
In Washington, members of Florida’s Congressional delegation, including Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, along with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking that the Department of Justice launch a federal investigation into McGlockton’s death. Sessions has not said whether the Justice Department will get involved.