Stand Your Ground

This Case, Which Resulted in a 20-Year Prison Sentence, Supposedly Showed How Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law Lets People Get Away With Murder

Michael Drejka said he had to shoot Markeis McGlockton in self-defense. Jurors disagreed.


After Michael Drejka lethally shot Markeis McGlockton outside a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida, last year, the case was widely portrayed as an example of how that state's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law supposedly lets people get away with murder. Yet Drejka was charged with manslaughter a month after the incident, convicted by a jury a year later, and sentenced to 20 years in prison yesterday. The New York Times, which has a history of erroneous reporting about Florida's law, nevertheless seized upon the occasion to misrepresent it once again.

"The law says that people who believe they are in grave danger do not have to retreat from a confrontation, even if they can safely do so, and instead have the right to use deadly force," the Times says. "Stand Your Ground has been widely criticized for exacerbating conflicts. In a letter to the judge, Ross Kaplan, a retired major in the United States Army, raised concerns with the law. 'The aggressor can pick a fight and if they begin losing, they can use deadly force,' he wrote."

Contrary to the implication, none of that has anything to do with this case. Drejka's fatal encounter with McGlockton began when Drejka upbraided McGlockton's pregnant girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, for parking in a spot reserved for disabled customers. When McGlockton was alerted to the argument, security camera footage shows, he exited the convenience store and shoved Drejka, who fell on the pavement. Drejka, still sitting on the ground, drew a pistol, at which point McGlockton started to back away. Drejka shot him in the chest anyway, after which McGlockton staggered back into the store and collapsed in front of his 5-year-old son. McGlockton was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The whole incident could have been avoided if Drejka had not taken it upon himself to enforce parking restrictions—something he had a habit of doing, even though the store's owner had asked him to cut it out. But it was McGlockton, not Drejka, who initiated a physical altercation. Given the circumstances, it may well have been reasonable for Drejka, who had a concealed carry permit, to draw his gun in self-defense against a man who had assaulted him and was still looming over him. The crucial issue was whether he was justified in firing the weapon when brandishing it seemed sufficient to deter McGlockton from continuing his attack.

The question, in other words, was whether Drejka reasonably believed that using lethal force was necessary to prevent death or serious injury. Jurors throughout the country face the same question in homicide cases where the defendant claims to have acted in self-defense, regardless of whether their state's law imposes a duty to retreat on people attacked in public places. There is nothing special about Florida's law that made Drejka's defense any stronger than it otherwise would have been.

It's true that Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially declined to arrest Drejka, but that decision was plainly mistaken. Florida's law says police "may not arrest [a] person for using or threatening to use force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used or threatened was unlawful." In this case, there was not only probable cause to believe the shooting was unlawful; there was enough evidence to prove Drejka's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Explaining his decision not to arrest Drejka, Gualtieri misrepresented Florida's law. "Stand Your Ground allows for a subjective belief by the person that they are in harm's way," he said, and "we don't get to substitute our judgment for Drejka's judgment." That is simply not true. A "subjective belief" is not enough to establish self-defense under Florida's law; that belief has to be reasonable. Contrary to Gualtieri's gloss, police and prosecutors are required to assess the reasonableness of a suspect's judgment. Gualtieri himself said that he would not have shot McGlockton in the same circumstances and that Drejka "probably could have" defended himself by brandishing the weapon without firing it.

The Times nevertheless cites Gualtieri's misinterpretation of Florida's self-defense law, which was criticized by the legislators who wrote it and by the National Rifle Association, as evidence that the state's rules are dangerously loose. "Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County did not initially arrest Mr. Drejka…citing Stand Your Ground," it says. "One of Florida's most far-reaching pro-gun statutes, the law says that people who believe they are in grave danger do not have to retreat from a confrontation, even if they can safely do so, and instead have the right to use deadly force."

Notice that the Times repeatedly omits the requirement that a defendant's belief about the danger he faces has to be reasonable, not merely sincere. In any event, the duty to retreat is not relevant to this case, just as it was not relevant to George Zimmerman's defense after he shot Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.

Both defendants claimed lethal force was necessary to stop an ongoing attack that threatened to kill or seriously injure them. In Zimmerman's case, that defense was far more plausible, since the evidence, including his injuries and eyewitness testimony, supported his claim that Martin had tackled him and was knocking his head against the pavement. In Drejka's case, given that McGlockton broke off his attack and retreated after Drejka drew his gun, it was hard to see how the use of deadly force could be justified.

The jurors watched the video of the encounter hundreds of times, one of them told the Tampa Bay Times. "I had a hard time seeing what [Drejka] said he saw," the juror said. "Did I feel it was necessary for him to pull the trigger? Absolutely not."

An alternate juror agreed that "it really came down to…the fact that once the gun was drawn, he, the victim, retreated….The defendant had enough time to make the decision that once he saw the victim retreating, that he did not have to pull the trigger."

The jury foreman likewise told a local TV station, "He had time to think, 'Do I really have to kill this man?' And no, he didn't, but he chose to."

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  1. You mean to say that juries can sometimes have common sense? You mean to say that we do NOT have to constantly obey our self-appointed masters in the media and academia? And have 536,987,243 page laws concerning EVERYTHING?

    WHO KNEW?!?!? And when did the know, and how come I haven’t been let in on this?!?!

  2. If you carry you have a huge responsibility, knowing a confrontation you get yourself into may result in someone’s life ending. Some think carrying gives them the power to be a vigilante or a badass that can get out of situations they are otherwise not physically prepared for. I wouldn’t go harassing some big black dudes family in a convenience store parking lot because, well I’m not a fucking moron. I also grew up in rough neighborhoods so I know better.

    Bet your ass this guy would have never popped off and been yelling in their vehicle window if he wasn’t packing, knowing he had an “out” if things got hairy. That means he shouldn’t have been doing it at all. Responsible CCW owners know better.

    1. Don’t go anywhere with a gun that you wouldn’t go without a gun.

      1. We’re not always in complete control of where we have to go.

      2. That doesn’t make sense.

        1. No, it doesn’t—where I would go and where I wouldn’t isn’t a yes-or-no thing. There are some places where being armed is more likely to be useful than others. Where to draw the line is subjective and complicated.

        2. I understand the sentiment, but it’s too twisted to really apply in the real world.

      3. I’d add “unless you have a good reason to”. Don’t go looking for trouble and don’t take stupid risks with your own or other people’s lives.

        1. “I’d add “unless you have a good reason to”. Don’t go looking for trouble and don’t take stupid risks with your own or other people’s lives.”

          Yeah, FFS everyone knows that free speech is not really free and tolerance is an aberration, not a norm. Don’t dare stand up to bullies, assert yourself or push back against assholes. An interaction with an obviously armed and dictatorial cop must be the preferred manner for handling these kind of situations. Simply telling someone to “Fuck off” is not sufficient for some people.

          The jurors should have been instructed to substitute Drejka for a cop before determining their verdict.

          And if anyone cuts in front of you in any line you better keep your fucking mouth shut, pissant.

          1. Huh? I’m not saying don’t carry a gun, I’m saying don’t expose yourself or others to danger if you don’t have a reason to. How is that not obvious advice? Or do you think people should go looking for trouble and excuses to use a weapon? Stupid asshole.

  3. The whole incident could have been avoided if Drejka had not taken it upon himself to enforce parking restrictions—something he had a habit of doing, even though the store’s owner had asked him to cut it out.

    Ah, so he was one of “those”.

    1. I’m trying to remember – wasn’t there some other story a few years back about a self-appointed Guardian of the Galaxy who wound up shooting and killing some guy he was Nancy Drewing about the neighborhood?

      1. Sorry, Jerry. My phone just flagged this comment in error.

      2. If I remember correctly, in that situation the victim doubled back and decided to fight the Nancy Drew motherfucker instead of just going home.

  4. I’m not surprised the bare bones of a story are often used to build whole armies of straw men. After all, I’m libertarian and quite used to seeing comments made after some company is discovered doing some bad thing that this is a refutation of libertarianism.

    For example, there was recently a news story about several manufacturers of ranitidine (generic Zantac) voluntarily recalling due to an advisory from the FDA that some samples showed elevated levels of NDMA, a carcinogen. Note, the FDA itself did not issue a recall, merely announced that they were looking into the matter and these companies immediately issued a recall. (Still going to get the shit sued out of them from anybody who claims they took a Zantac last week and, boom, cancer.) And yet, there’s the comments right away – “See? If libertarians had their way, we’d see this stuff all the time!” What the hell are you talking about? The libertarians aren’t in charge, you’ve got the FDA – and you’re seeing this! WTF do you mean if we were in charge we’d be seeing this? And how the hell does drug companies immediately issuing a voluntary recall out of an abundance of caution somehow prove that evil corporations would cheerfully poison their customers to death for a nickel if it weren’t for government?

    1. *pours Jerry a drink* here man. The week’s over. Let the stress wash away.

  5. It is terribly sad that anyone died here.
    It looks like justice was served here.

    1. I agree with the juries verdict, but I’ll note if Drejka was a cop, on duty or off, he would have walked free.

  6. Look, some asshole who takes it upon himself to be the handicapped parking police deserves to be shot. Nascent totalitarians should be nipped in the bud, before they get elected to office.

    1. Look, some asshole who takes it upon himself to park in the handicapped parking spot.
      Look, some asshole who takes it upon himself to assault someone for complaining that your’e parking in the handicapped parking spot.
      It’s assholes all the way down.

    2. DenverJ makes a good point that is overlooked. While the issue of a parking space is not one I would ever choose to engage someone over, especially an handicap space, It is important.

      Most all states made a big production of handicap spaces back in the 80’s or so. There were significant campaigns and news articles about NOT parking in such spaces. The law seems to be generally regarded as a joke nationwide. Either the law regarding the use of such spaces means something, or it does not.

      Quite similar to the “no tolerance” of bullying at schools. Such facilities have taken enforcement to pedantic stupidity, but yet, bullying rates and severity continue unabated.

      Why even bother to have rules and laws if we are going to selectively ignore them. The state made the decision that police were required to enforce handicap spaces as opposed to business owners. I don’t recall any directives on how law enforcement can prioritize calls. (save the doctrine of Sovereign immunity -They have no duty to essentially anyone at all)

      People are put in untenable situations constantly in our society. And although I agree Djreka probably should not have fired on McGlockton, I (as a concealed permit holder myself) would have NEVER voted to convict. McGlockton violent knocked him to the ground in an unprovoked and unannounced attack. He forfeited right there.

      1. Would a reasonable person in Djreka’s position see McGlockton as an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm if they did not immediately employ deadly force? No, the jury putting themselves in Djreka’s shoes did not see McGlockton (especially moving away) as an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm and saw Djreka’s immediate employment of deadly force as unjustified.

        I suspect the jury putting themselves in Djreka’s shoes probably thought he opened fire out of the butthurt of being pushed down for dissing a pregnant woman.

      2. “Djreka probably should not have fired on McGlockton”

        Maybe. I think he should have drawn his weapon, fired a warning shot, and only then ask the man to park his vehicle in an appropriate space, keeping the weapon cocked and trained on the inappropriate parker until he was satisfied that he was no longer in danger and the vehicle was no longer inconveniencing the handicapped customers..

  7. Quick review:
    20 years for manslaughter, with at least a veil of self defense, having been shoved to the ground by a larger individual.
    10 years for murder in the cold blooded shooting of a man sitting in his own apartment eating ice cream.
    Equal justice under the law?
    No wonder no one pays attention to the parchment ramblings of a bunch of old rich white guys.

    1. The 10 years was after applying the police discount to what should have been a life sentence.

    2. It could be down to differences in state law. But I wouldn’t doubt that there’s some police discount in there too.

  8. Some people carry not to protect themselves but to compensate for their insecurities. When you’re armed you have no right to start fights or generally be a prick. Keep yourself out of other people’s business. If some asshole cuts you off in traffic, just let him. It’s not worth it.

    This guy Drejka wanted to tell other people what to do. Just like ZimZam. Both were out of line. In ZimZam’s case he actually did almost get killed. This Drejka idiot did not. Both played stupid games and won stupid prizes. Drejka however isn’t going to get an art career out of it.

  9. Irregardless of the law, McGlockton DESERVED to get shot. If you initiate physical force against someone, ESPECIALLY knocking them to the ground- you deserve everything you get. McGlockton was a piece of sh*t who got what was coming to him.

    Was Drejka a nerdy turd who should have had better things to do? Yes! That doesn’t mean you can knock him on his ass and not expect to get what’s coming.

    1. Wrong. The asshole was harassing a pregnant woman. Pushing him down may have been over-reaction, but not a death sentence.

      Or are you being sarcastic, I hope.

      1. Wrong. Approaching someone to talk to them about something they don’t want to talk about is not “harassment.” Surely, you’ve got to be kidding… Harassment might be considered an appropriate term if he laid hands on the woman or physically blocked her from doing something- which he did not.

        Her thug boyfriend rolled right up on the scene, made no attempt to verbally ascertain the situation or verbally address Drejka. He immediately launched into a physical assault.

        There is a saying: “Not everyone who gets shot is innocent.” That is certainly true in the dead a*shole’s case. I am no Drejka fan. I think he’s an a*s clown who should mind his business. That being said, being annoying does not warrant a physical assault.

        A reminder as well: people die from falls. Therefore being knocked to the ground is a deadly threat. Furthermore, while on the ground with an aggressive adult standing over you- you have the right to react accordingly. However, that is all besides the point. McGlockton DESERVED to get shot irregardless of the law and whether you think he was in retreat or not.

        1. Not to be a sticky Tuesday or a grammar N*zi (or god forbid, an a*s cl*wn), but ‘irregardless’ is not yet in the Mirriam-Webster. I think the word you’re looking for is ‘iridescent’. Otherwise a rock solid a*sessment.

          1. I looked it up too… it is in the Apple dictionary and accepted by linguistics as an observational science rather than hortative chiseling of stone tablets.

            1. Sadly, that’s because lexicographers are descriptive not prescriptive.

              Irregardless is probably a mistaken formation of “irrespective” and “regardless”.

    2. Exactly. I only wish that Drejka had also shot McGlockton had shot the children in the car as well. Given that they have McGlockton’s genetic low IQ and propensity for violence, they will almost definitely be a problem in 10-20 years themselves.

  10. That guys claim of reasonable fear was manifestly more reasonable than most police shootings, it’s not right to impose tougher standards of reasonableness on civilians than you do on trained professionals. Not a fucking chance that jury would find it unreasonable if that dude was a cop.

  11. I’ve already decided I want a house in Florida. Jacob needn’t make the sales pitch. They had me at no income tax and fewer mosquitoes.

    1. Did they mention the alligators?

  12. I continue to see multiple examples of the media seizing upon incidents like this, in which the shooter was completely out of line in the use of unwarranted deadly force, and throwing them up as examples of how misguided “stand your ground laws” are. Not once do you ever hear stories about the person who stopped someone invading their home in the middle of the night with the intent to do harm, and who was thwarted by someone who was “standing their ground.” And just as importantly, someone who it was later determined was fully within their rights to do so, and now is not facing a frivolous lawsuit that could ruin their lives, for stopping someone justifiably – yet it happens all the time.

  13. Did Drejka see that he was retreating? 30 years ago en entire US war ship thought that an Iranian passenger planes that was ascending was a fighter plane descending. Nobody went to jail despite over 200 people dying.

    People who have firearms see others as more threatening than those who do not have one. That is the reason people should not carry firearms. Punishing Drejka does not bring the victim back.

    1. This Florida interaction between two jerks is clearly a case of evolution in action, with an additional lemma on the side as to how stupid it is to seek votes on an anarchist platform of abolishing all laws against murder.

    2. “That is the reason people should not carry firearms.”

      What is the point of carrying a firearm only to hide it from those who would threaten to kill you?

  14. So a cop (Salvador Sanchez) can get knocked down in a Costco and four seconds later fire off ten shots, killing a retard and shooting his elderly parents in the back, and the DA won’t even charge him because he said he feared for his life. But Drejka can get knocked on his ass by a big angry dude being territorial over his girlfriend and somehow it’s not legitimate for him to fear for his life? Is that rationale reserved for highly-trained law enforcement professionals?

  15. The thing is, none of this matters in the larger sense. The core issue is simple; until Gun Control advocates propose and pass a Constitutional Amendment effectively repealing the Second Amendment, they are scofflaws who want to ignore established limits on government authority. Unlimited Governments murdered more than one hundred million people in the 20th Century (see THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM, Harvard University Press). I have no numbers in front of me, but I doubt that is exceeded by the number of deaths caused by citizens in legal possession of firearms. I doubt it a lot.

    I don’t own a gun. I don’t plan on owning a gun. But I have noticed, over time, that politicians who want to keep me from owning a gun also have other fascist tendencies.

  16. What is the point of going about with a gun only to hide it? Had the assailant seen the gun, he would have thought twice about physical confrontation unless he was also carrying a weapon and thought he was the quicker draw.

    1. Open carry can be a deterrent, but it can also make you a target. Every firearms instructor I’ve had has said he’d rather the bad guys not know he’s armed. It should be up to the guy carrying, obviously, but I’ve never been tempted to open carry: If someone knows you’re armed you’re the first one they’re going to try to neutralize.

  17. Don’t commit assault against someone and you more than likely won’t have to worry about getting shot by the victim.

  18. I think Drejka is an idiot and McGlockton a low-IQ violent thug. Florida is better off with both of them off our streets.

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