Aug. 24 (UPI) — A jury has found a Florida man guilty of manslaughter after he initially used the state’s “stand your ground’ law as his defense for fatal shooting last summer.
The jury found Michael Drejka guilty Friday night of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Markeis McGlockton last summer in Clearwater, Florida during a quarrel over a handicapped-accessible parking spot.
Drejka could face up to 30 years in prison.
The judge set a sentencing date of Oct. 10.
The incident occurred on July 19, 2018, outside a Circle A Food Store in Clearwater after Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, over being parked with her two children in a handicapped-accessible spot. McGlockton came out of the store and pushed Drejka to the ground.
Drejka told detectives he opened fire after McGlockton shoved him to the ground and took a step towards him, but security video showed the victim was actually stepping back.
McGlockton was a 28-year-old unarmed black male with Drejka being white and McGlockton family attorney Benjamin Crump suggested suggest racism played a role in the fatal shooting.
“McGlockton was needlessly and wrongfully killed by this parking lot vigilante,” Crump said in a statement. “The jury in this case sent a crystal clear message — violent racism has no place in American society. Today’s verdict marks a victory over stand your ground.”
The case had sparked national debate over Florida’s “stand your ground” law as Drejka, who didn’t take the witness stand, used it initially as a defense for justifiable homicide, even though he later used a plain self-defense case instead.
The law, which went into effect in Florida in 2005, allows people to use lethal force if they believe they need to do so “to prevent imminent death.”
The controversial law previously gained widespread attention in 2013 during trial for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was found not guilty in the fatal shooting of Martin, resulting in protests against the verdict.