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'Stand Your Ground' Trial Begins In Florida A Year After Unarmed Black Man Is Killed

In surveillance video, an unarmed black man Markeis McGlockton (far left) is shot by Michael Drejka, who is white, during an altercation a the parking lot in Clearwater, Fla., in July 2018.
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office via AP

Jury selection is underway in the manslaughter trial involving a white Florida man who shot and killed an unarmed black man last year during a dispute over a handicapped-accessible parking space.

The incident involving Michael Drejka took place outside Circle A Food Store, a convenience store in the city of Clearwater and was captured by surveillance footage. It also reignited a national debate over Florida's controversial "stand your ground" self-defense law.

Drejka is on trial for the killing of Markeis McGlockton.

McGlockton's girlfriend, Brittany Jacobs, got into a heated verbal exchange with Drejka, who took issue with the fact she parked in a handicapped parking space without having a permit visible.

McGlockton was in the store at the time with the couple's 5-year-old son. According to surveillance footage, McGlockton exits the convenience store and walks towards to Drejka, then shoves him to the ground.

Moments later, Drejka, who has a concealed-carry permit, draws his weapon while on his knees and fires a single shot at McGlocton, killing him.

Several weeks passed before Drejka was charged in the killing of McGlockton. The case was turned over to the State Attorney who charged Drejka with manslaughter last August.

Drejka says he shot in self-defense, but the Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe told USA Today, his office believes that claim can be disproved.

"In any case where a defendant raises self-defense as an affirmative defense, we have to disprove that defense beyond a reasonable doubt, and I made the determination that we can do that," McCabe told the paper.

As NPR's Greg Allen reported at the time of the incident, law enforcement officials cited Florida's 2005 stand your ground law for why Drejka was not detained or arrested immediately following the shooting.

According to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Drejka told deputies that when he was on the ground that he was feared for his life, saying "that the next thing that's going to happen is that he's going to be reattacked by McGlockton. And that he felt he was in peril and he needed to shoot to defend himself."

The "stand your ground" law allows a person who believes his or her life is indanger to use deadly force to thwart an attack. In other words, the law does not require the person who is in danger to retreat.

The law came under national scrutiny following the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was killed by George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer.

Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder and manslaughter. He said he acted in self-defense and was acquitted.

Drejka's trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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