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A Florida man who was found guilty of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man during a dispute over a handicapped parking space in Florida last year was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday.
Michael Drejka, who fatally shot Markeis McGlockton, 28, outside a Clearwater convenience store in July 2018, was found guilty of manslaughter in August.
On Thursday, McGlockton's family addressed Drejka before he was sentenced.
"In the Bible, it says in order to get into heaven, we must forgive those who trespass against us. At this point in my life, I am not there yet. And if it just so happens that the Lord chooses to take me before I come to terms with this, then I will see you in hell where you and I will finish this. Mark my words," his father, Michael McGlockton, told Drejka.
Drejka faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and will receive credit for about three months already served. He chose not to speak Thursday and showed no emotion when he was sentenced.
His defense team requested Thursday that the judge depart from manslaughter sentencing guidelines and give Drejka less time or release him on probation, saying he had no prior record and had shown remorse.
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But Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone said that the defense showed the jury that Drejka was a "wannabe law enforcement officer" who made a hobby out of monitoring the parking spot at the Clearwater Circle A Food Store.
When the store's owner asked him to stop acting as a keeper of the space, which was "not even the best space in the whole parking lot," because it was leading to altercations, he simply started bringing a gun with him, Bulone said.
"The jury found that the defendant did not act reasonably or responsibly," Bulone said before handing down the sentence. He added that, to him, the "most ironic thing about this case" was that Drejka had parked illegally to scold someone for parking illegally.
Drejka had approached McGlockton's car to see if it had the correct decal for a handicapped space and subsequently got into an argument with McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, who was in the car with two of their children while McGlockton was inside the store with their third child.
When McGlockton came out of the store and saw what was going on, he shoved Drejka to the ground, surveillance footage showed. Drejka then pulled out his gun and shot McGlockton, the footage showed.
McGlockton was unarmed, and video surveillance and autopsy results indicated he was turning away from Drejka when he was shot.
Prosecutors said that Drejka started the altercation by confronting Jacobs because she was parked with her children in the handicapped space. They said Drejka had no reason to fire as McGlockton was retreating.
"Believe your own eyes. The gun comes out, Markeis doesn't step forward," Bulone said Thursday.
"No one really used perfect justice in this case," he said. "But the evidence in this case shows the defendant created conflict and created confrontation and shot and killed an unarmed man who was backing up and retreating and trying to save his own life by retreating once his saw the firearm."
McGlockton "died right in front of his young son," Bulone said. The judge also noted that he never heard Drejka express remorse.
Jacobs testified that she feared for her safety before the argument escalated.
"How could one person's anger about a parking spot lead to the person I love dying, and his four children being left without their dad," she asked the court Thursday. Jacobs was pregnant when McGlockton was killed.
"My world will never be whole again," she said. "I no longer have my love, and they no longer have their dad."
"Because of you, Michael Drejka, Markeis is now a memory," McGlockton's mother, Monica Robinson, told him directly Thursday. "I don’t hate you, but I will never forgive you."
Drejka did not testify on his own behalf during the trial, which was in Clearwater. His defense team argued that it was Jacobs who was the aggressor, and "not once did Mr. Drejka threaten" either McGlockton or Jacobs.
His wife wrote in a letter read in court Thursday that he was "not a bad person" and "not a violent person." She wrote she and other family members supported Drejka but hadn't stepped foot in the courtroom because they feared for the safety.
Drejka, who has a concealed weapons license, was initially not arrested due to Florida’s "stand your ground" law. Almost a month after the shooting though, local prosecutors charged him with manslaughter following protests.
In 2005, Florida became the first state to enact a "stand your ground" law, which states a citizen facing a threat or perceived threat does not have a duty to flee the scene and can use deadly force if they fear they face bodily harm.
Following the sentencing, McGlockton's family and their lawyers said they were hoping for the maximum sentence, but they were content with the 20 years. "
"Now I can go home and tell my children that the killer didn’t get away with the murder of their daddy," Jacobs said.
Attorney Benjamin Crump said he hoped the case would be a wakeup call "that stand your ground is a racist law that allows for there to be open season on black and brown people."
Drejka's attorneys have said race was not at issue in the case, noting Drejka had confronted other people about parking in the handicapped-accessible spot no matter their background.
They plan to appeal the verdict. Prosecutor Michele Rayner-Goolsby said Thursday that "the state’s case is appeal proof."