Death in a Parking Lot

Before we go any further let’s make sure we understand two things.

The license to carry a concealed weapon is only that.  It is permission by your state government to legally carry a handgun concealed in public in specific locations.  That feeling that you should do something to improve your community or ride to the rescue because of that permit is wrong and possibly dangerously illegal.

Let me go forward and state your permit does not allow you to enforce even minor parking regulations in the absence of LEO.  I don’t believe you can be “deputized” by an LEO in any but the most extreme circumstances. 

Stand Your Ground laws are not permission to shoot.  They simply eliminate the legal requirement that you need to prove you could not safely retreated.  All the legal requirements for a justified self-defense shooting still govern your actions. 

To flog this horse just a little more, in any self-defense situation the legal system will look at the totality of the situation, what lead up to the shooting, the shooting and your actions afterward. 

Florida shooting
Captured image from Markeis McGlockton shooting

You’ve seen the video from Clearwater, Florida so let’s talk.

Markeis McGlockton (age 28) and his partner Britany Jacobs stop at a convenience store and park in a handicap space.  Markeis and a child leave the car and enter the store.  At some point Michael Drejka (age 47) gets in a confrontation by arguing with Britany about their parking space.

Britany exits the car and engages in the argument.  Markeis exits the store, approaches Britany and Michael.  They appear to be still arguing.  Markeis shoves Michael to the ground.  Markeis remains standing in place, neither advancing nor retreating.

At this point, still seated on the ground, Michael draws his legally carried handgun.

Markeis takes a step back.

Michael fires one shot, hits Markeis who retreats into the store.  Michael remains seated on the ground tracking the retreating Markeis with his handgun.  No additional rounds are fired.  When Markeis enters the store Michael lowers the handgun.  Markeis later dies.

Now dying over a parking space is surely one of the worst ways to end up at St Peter’s gate.  Arguing over the use of a parking space in what appears to be an empty lot is stupid.  By starting this action, Michael failed to remember that in any confrontation he gets involved with there is always a gun present, his and the potential for escalation is greatly increased.  CCW holders should always avoid arguments when possible.  It’s just a fact of life.

Markeis pushes Michael to the ground.  This by itself would be difficult to be consisted an application of lethal force requiring you to defend yourself.  Even a medical condition that made your bones as brittle as glass may not provide you with sufficient justification.  After all, you have survived the initial attack.  Your goal is to prevent a second or continued attack now that you are in a vulnerable seated position with reduced mobility.

Markeis does not step forward with a kick or makes any apparent movement to suggest he was going to further the attack.  It doesn’t not appear he intended to escalate the conflict to lethal levels.

Michael draws his gun and Markeis retreats a step. 

Michael shoots Markeis, who staggers into the store.  Michael stops shooting.

It is interesting to observe that a witness, as soon as he sees the gun makes a hasty retreat.  It’s been observed that crowds vanish like magic as soon as a gun is drawn.  Witnesses, especially ear witness who heard the verbal exchange missing on the video may be hard to find and have faulty memories of the conflict.

The what ifs……..

Frankly, I don’t see how the Stand Your Ground law makes any difference in this case.  Michael was knocked to the ground.  To retreat would have required him to stand up.  The process of standing up is slow and exposes yourself to additional attacks.  Years of playing martial arts has taught me the difficulty of trying to get to your feet when you’re physically attacked.

Markeis was unarmed, or was he?  Ask any LEO, they will emphatically tell you unarmed is not the same as not dangerous.  Society seeks to establish a level field in human interactions.  That’s why heavy weight fighters don’t box featherweights.  The difference in strength, ability and force is called disparity of force.  One of classic examples is the young man verses the old man.  In any conflict it would be reasonable to assume the young man would beat the old man all of the time.  Markeis was armed with disparity of force.  He had no trouble pushing Michael to the ground.

We don’t know what words were exchanged.  Words have a powerful input in this case.  If, and only if, Markeis told Michael seated the ground, “I’m going stomp your ass…,” things would change.  Assuming of course Michael took him at his word, and frankly what else could you do when you’ve been knocked to the ground?  Drawing the handgun seems appropriate.

However, the video doesn’t not support the need to fire.  Markeis does not advance, but actually steps back.  Seconds later Michael fires and you can see Markeis take the impact and grab himself before retreating to inside the store.

I suspect there will be charges, not because Markeis is black or his girlfriend looks good on camera and is demanding justice, but because, in the absence of exculpatory evidence, Michael Drejka wrongly took a human life and should pay of it.

Update:  Michael Drejka has been charged with manslaughter.  This will play out over the next year or so.