You’re a 47 year-old man visiting a convenience store in your hometown. You see a woman illegally parked in a handicapped spot. Being a good citizen or an annoying meddler (you decide ), you approach the illegally parked female motorist and confront her.
A verbal argument ensues. Maybe some curse words are used. In the midst of the argument the motorist’s boyfriend comes out of the store and believes that you are threatening his girlfriend. The boyfriend is younger, much larger, and much more aggressive than you. He quickly moves towards you and shoves you. Hard. You are much smaller and your body flies, landing on the asphalt. You look up and see the larger man standing a few feet away from you. He does not proceed toward you but you still feel like you are under attack. You’re carrying your firearm, which you are permitted to do under Florida law. You draw your weapon and fire once, hitting the man in the chest. He stumbles for a few seconds before falling dead on the pavement.
Murder or self-defense?
A recent case out of the Tampa area is about to test the boundaries of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground Law; an immunity provision that statutorily prevents criminal prosecution and civil action against a citizen, otherwise behaving lawfully, who uses self-defense, including lethal self-defense, to protect themselves or another from imminent death or great bodily harm.
In this case, involving a man named Michael Drejka, who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton after being shoved to the ground in a parking lot, the local sheriff’s office refused to arrest on the basis of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.
A spokesperson from the sheriff’s office stated that on its face, it appeared that Mr. Drejka feared for his life after being shoved to the ground and was justified in using lethal force.
Mr. McGlockton, while physically bigger and stronger than Mr. Drejka, was unarmed.
Now, the State Attorney’s Office will review the case to determine whether charges should be filed.
A number of questions will be posed. First and foremost, was the shooter reasonable in his belief that his life or limb was in jeopardy? Florida uses a reasonable person standard, meaning that would a person with normal sensibilities believe that lethal force was necessary to save their life or prevent eminent and serious bodily injury?
That is a factual question that depends greatly on the circumstances.
Does it matter that the victim was unarmed?
No. Florida does not require that an assailant be armed in order for one to be justified in using lethal force. So long as there is a reasonable, credible fear in the mind of the user of force that the force is necessary to save their life or prevent serious injury, the immunity may attach.
Subjectively, these cases where an unarmed person is the victim are viewed in terms of the physical capabilities and limitations of the parties involved. A smaller older person who uses force against the younger larger upon it may be viewed in a light more favorable to granting immunity than the other way around.
Self-defense in Florida always considers what each party brings to the fight, so to speak. Who is the larger, more capable opponent? Who is the opponent most vulnerable and likely to be injured?
Finally, was the shooter in a place where he had the right to be, and had no duty to retreat when confronted with force? The answer to that question is yes. The shooter was verbally engaging with another person in a public place, there is no law that prohibits such conduct. Statutory immunity cannot be conferred upon somebody who is in the process of committing a crime. A burglar who shoots and kills a homeowner can never claim immunity under Stand Your Ground because they were commuting a crime when the lethal force was used.
What will likely happen in this case is a grand jury will review the evidence and make a decision. That decision is not binding, as the prosecutor can opt to file charges by way of information. However, when a prosecutor wants to pass the buck, so to speak, they will put the case in front of the grand jury and leave it in their hands.
My opinion? Charges will be filed. One shove, with a pause in the action - as was visible in the surveillance footage - negates the need to use lethal force. Unless McGlockton was actively charging at Drejka, lethal force was an overreaction. While Drejka had no duty to retreat; one shove, without a follow up attack or further aggressive action taken by Drejka, did not warrant lethal self-defense. Stand Your Ground immunity is not appropriate in this case.