CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — A white Florida man who told detectives he was irritated by people who illegally park in handicapped spots was sentenced on Thursday to 20 years in prison for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man outside a convenience store.
Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone called 49-year-old Michael Drejka a "wanna-be" law enforcement officer and a self-appointed "handicapped parking space monitor."
Jurors found Drejka guilty of manslaughter in August. Drejka showed no emotion when the judge sentenced him.
Drejka confronted Markeis McGlockton's girlfriend Britany Jacobs in July 2018 for parking in a handicapped space at a Clearwater convenience store. McGlockton had gone inside the store with his 5-year-old son to buy drinks. As the confrontation continued, a customer went into the store and alerted McGlockton.
Security video shows McGlockton leaving the store and shoving Drejka to the ground. Seconds later, Drejka pulls out a handgun and shoots the 28-year-old McGlockton as he backs away.
Initially, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he wouldn't arrest Drejka, saying the shooting was not a crime under the state's 'stand your ground' law, which allows someone to use deadly force if they believe it necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
A security video from the store, however, shows McGlockton appearing to step back and turn away as Drejka fires the shot, which strikes McGlockton in the side.
McGlockton's family hired a lawyer and held a news conference demanding justice, while U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. Authorities later decided to charge Drejka.
The judge said he found it most ironic that Drejka drove up, illegally parked next to Jacobs' car and then confronted her about parking illegally in a handicapped space.
"He just seems to come out of nowhere, kind of like a superhero, to see that he enforces the handicapped parking spot," Bulone said.
Jacobs, along with McGlockton's parents, spoke before the sentencing.
"There are no words to fully describe what his loss has done to our family," said Jacobs, who had four children with McGlockton. "Our youngest two children will never have memories of their daddy."
Defense attorney Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy read a letter from Drejka's wife in which she defended her husband, saying he was not a bad person. She also wrote that she and other family and friends had received threats and decided to stay away from the courtroom.
A previous version of this story was edited to correct the name in the 3rd paragraph to Drejka.
Frisaro reported from Miami.
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