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Amend Florida's 'stand your ground' law, says lawyer for Markeis McGlockton's family

Lawyer Benjamin Crump said Thursday that "it's still ludicrous" that a person can be an aggressor in a confrontation and then claim self-defense.
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A prominent civil rights attorney on Thursday demanded Florida lawmakers amend the state's "stand your ground" law to prevent the person shown to be the aggressor in a confrontation from claiming immunity.

Lawyer Benjamin Crump joined the family of Markeis McGlockton, the 28-year-old father of three fatally shot by another man in a Clearwater parking lot, and argued there is enough evidence for state prosecutors to bring charges against the shooter.

"It's still ludicrous how you can claim you have fear for your life, yet you approach and start the confrontation with the individuals," Crump said at a news conference outside the Pinellas County Justice Center.

He also called for state legislators to take up stricter gun responsibility laws. Florida has some of the most lax gun laws in the nation, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a California-based organization started by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

McGlockton's killing at the Circle A convenience store a week ago led to protests and demands for the State Attorney's Office to file charges against the shooter, Michael Drejka, 47.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Friday that he would not arrest or charge Drejka after reviewing surveillance footage in the case, but would leave it for state prosecutors to review.

Video shows McGlockton, along with his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, and their three young children, pulling into a handicapped parking space. After McGlockton and his 5-year-old son go inside the store, Drejka goes up to the car.

Police said Drejka and Jacobs got into an argument over whether she was allowed to be parked in that spot without having the right decals.

The video shows Jacobs stepping out of the car just as McGlockton rushes out of the store and then shoves Drejka to the ground. In response, Drejka pulls a gun out of his pocket.

Markeis McGlockton
Markeis McGlocktonCourtesy of Britany Jacobs / WFLA

McGlockton appears to back off, and Drejka shoots him once. McGlockton later died at the hospital due to a gunshot wound to the chest, police said.

According to Gualtieri, the video does appear to show Drejka protecting himself as the state's "stand your ground" law allows, and his agency does not have an authority to make an arrest "unless we have probable cause that the person committed a crime."

But Crump and another family attorney, Michele Raynor, disagreed with the assessment, saying Thursday that it was Drejka who initiated the entire incident when he went up to the vehicle and began questioning Jacobs.

McGlockton, who was not armed, was only trying to protect his family, they added. They also questioned whether the young father's race will be a factor in how the case is prosecuted. McGlockton is black and Drejka is white.

Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager fatally shot in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. He was ultimately acquitted of murder after claiming self-defense in a trial that set off a national debate about race, guns and "stand your ground" laws.

Since 2005, Floridians have been permitted to justify using deadly force against another person in order to "prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."

The law does state that a person can't use a "stand your ground" defense if he or she "initially provokes the use or threatened use of force against himself or herself." But it also has caveats that use of force is justified if the person still feels they are in danger.

It will be up to state prosecutors to decide if that's applicable in this case. State Attorney for Pinellas County Bernie McCabe has declined to comment on the office's review.

Calls to Drejka's home went unanswered Thursday.

Jacobs told reporters that she's left struggling with how to tell her children that their father isn't coming home. McGlockton's funeral is planned for Saturday.

"I'm left answering questions for my babies," Jacobs said. "They ask me, 'Where is my daddy?' And I need answers."