Florida Creep All But Gets A Medal For Shooting Black Father In Convenience Store Parking Lot
You can imagine my
complete lack of surprise when Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to press charges against Michael Drejka, who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton in a Florida convenience store parking lot last week. Gualtieri's excuse was the state's
"shoot any negro you feel like" "stand your ground" law.
Based on surveillance video and reports of the encounter, McGlockton and his 5-year-old son were in the Circle A Food Store in Clearwater, Florida, on Thursday when Drejka approached their car, which was parked in a handicap space. McGlockton's partner, Britany Jacobs, was in the car with the couple's other kids. Drejka and Jacobs began arguing over whether McGlockton and Jacobs were allowed to park there.
McGlockton then came out of the convenience store and pushed Drejka to the ground. As McGlockton began to back away, Drejka pulled out a gun and shot McGlockton in the chest. McGlockton then ran into the convenience store. He was taken to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead.
White male fragility apparently rationalizes killing someone in front of a child because you got your ass kicked. McGlockton's death is tragic and senseless, but the county's refusal to hold Drejka responsible essentially renders it a state-sanctioned killing. I can't help but think of the Dred Scott decision, where Chief Justice Roger B. Taney declared that black people had "no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
As a black person in America, living with the cloud of white people's fear hanging over your head is exhausting. There's an oppressive bone weariness to constantly worrying about facing either humiliation or death whenever we attempt normal freedom-resembling activities such as using a restaurant's bathroom or shopping at a convenience store. It's this irrational fear that drives mostly white men to carry guns with them everywhere, because -- even after Donald Trump has "made America great again," they can't be certain the appropriate racial hierarchy will remain in place. We still might "get uppity" and "talk back" or dare to defend our loved ones from their aggression.
Florida presumably thought not enough people had gotten away with murder, so the "stand your ground" law was altered this year. Previously, when asserting the defense, the shooter had to prove they were in reasonable fear of further harm. Now, the burden has shifted to the state, which must provide "clear and convincing evidence" that the shooter didn't really fear for their life, and, honestly, it's just a dead black guy. That's the sense I get from Gualtieri, who seemed like he was serving more as Drejka's counsel than an officer of the supposed law.
Drejka was cooperative with deputies, the release said. He had a valid Florida concealed weapons license, it added. The statement did not indicate whether Jacobs' car had a handicapped sticker.
Sheriff Gualtieri said the only relevant issue is whether Drejka was in fear of further bodily harm from McGlockton.
What the hell does he mean it's not relevant whether Jacobs' car had a handicapped sticker or not? The official statement not bothering to include that pertinent information is shady AF. That was the point of the whole argument. I also wouldn't put it past the cops to charge her for parking illegally if the sticker wasn't there, dead boyfriend or not.
Gualtieri isn't interested in whether Drejka had any right to confront Jacobs, because like Florida's 19th Century "black codes" that restricted our liberty, it's simply understood that a white man, for any reason, can demand a black person justify their actions, even their very existence. The endless tears Jacobs has no doubt shed aren't white, and this situation highlights the stark difference in how society and the law regards white and black women. Do we really need to imagine how this would've played out if the races were reversed and it was a strange black man who aggressively confronted a white woman outside a creepy convenience store? At the very least, we'd know whether her car had a handicapped sticker or not.
Drejka had a legal concealed carry permit, according to the sheriff.
Drejka also reportedly has a history of confronting people over handicap spaces, allegedly threatening to shoot a trucker in the past over the issue. But the sheriff said that, legally, Drejka's history isn't relevant to the Thursday shooting.
This is almost laughably offensive. The police, usually within hours, trot out the histories of the unarmed black men their officers have killed. We know if they or anyone in their immediate families have criminal records. We know if they've smoked pot. We even know if they had overdue library books (weren't you afraid for a minute that I actually had a link for this one?). What kind of jack-legged legal system dismisses the pasts of shooters but scrutinizes every single minute in the cut-short lives of the people killed?
After the shooting, as McGlockton bled to death on the floor of the convenience store, his 5-year-old son, Markeis Jr., watched, screaming, as his mother pressed a shirt to the chest of his mortally wounded father, trying unsuccessfully to keep him alive.
"He's not too good," Jacobs said of the boy, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "It comes and goes, but he knows [his father] is dead."
McGlockton pushed Drejka to the ground to get him away from Jacobs, who he'd been harassing, but here is where the old "black codes" are hardwired into the white mind. Gualtieri fundamentally doesn't believe McGlockton had the right to respond with anger or even the mildest force against a white man, no matter how obnoxious or threatening he was. He even goes so far as to say that McGlockton would still be alive if he "hadn't pushed" Drejka. For Gualtieri, that is the true escalation point. All of Drejka's aggressive, unprovoked actions prior to that don't matter.
The sheriff explained that while McGlockton's back-off after the shove gave him "pause," ultimately Drejka said he was worried that he would be struck again. At a press conference, Sheriff Gualtieri emphasized that this wasn't a small push: "This wasn't a shove, this wasn't just a tap. He slammed him to the ground."
Merciful heavens! Drejka was "slammed" to the ground! Why recovery from such a vicious attack could involve a couple Advil and a hot bath. Whereas getting shot in the chest at close range has a speedy recovery time of never. My son is disabled, and it also annoys me when able-bodied people thoughtlessly use disabled spaces. However, I've never gotten into a shouting match with someone over it, and if I did, I'd kind of expect to get shoved. Drejka lives in Clearwater, Florida, not Georgian-era England, where the most that can happen when you offend someone is that they leave the room in a huff. Even dumbass duels had rules. You didn't just shoot someone because they slapped you with their glove. "He said he demanded satisfaction! He was more beast than man!"
"[Drejka] felt, after being slammed to the ground, that the next thing was that he was going to be further attacked by McGlockton," Gualtieri said, adding that the time between Drejka hitting the ground and shooting was about four to five seconds.
Here's a wild theory: Drejka pulled a gun on McGlockton, who might have a rough idea of how they work. He wasn't forced to unleash some weird supernatural powers he'd sworn never to use again. He had a gun. People usually take them seriously. How could he reasonably fear "further attack" when he's pointing a gun at McGlockton? That's basically checkmate. Chalk this up to my suspicious mind, but I think it's far more likely that Drejka was pissed off that the black man dared to shove him, so he shot him. That's not "standing your ground." That's murder. And it's why we kneel.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.