The surveillance video from the parking lot of the Circle A in Clearwater, Florida, leaves little to the imagination: Britany Jacobs and two of her children were waiting in a car for her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, and their 5-year-old son to return from a snack run last month. Another man, identified as Michael Drejka, approached the car and began to berate Jacobs for parking in a handicap spot. Hearing the commotion, McGlockton emerged from the store and shoved Drejka to the ground. He had just taken a step away when Drejka pulled out a gun and shot him in the chest. McGlockton then ran into the convenience store, where he bled to death as his 5-year-old son stood screaming beside him.
There is no question that Drejka fired the killing shot. Yet a day later, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced that - thanks to Florida’s “stand your ground” law - Drejka would not be arrested. Under the law, anyone who “reasonably believes” that deadly force is necessary “to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” does not have a duty to retreat. Florida’s law operates wherever people have a legal right to be - in their homes, at work or in any public space - and places the burden of proof squarely on the prosecutor, making it one of the most extreme versions of the law in the country.
As experts have pointed out, the “stand your ground” defense might not apply in Drejka’s case: The video footage clearly shows McGlockton backing away when he was shot, and Florida prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine if charges should be filed. That should be given serious consideration. But Gualtieri’s decision not to arrest Drejka highlights the many problems with these laws, which are on the books in 25 states. By creating a more lax standard for the use of lethal force, the laws excuse and perhaps incentivize reckless violence.