Florida parking lot shooter wants sheriff as defense witness

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys for a white man accused of fatally shooting an unarmed black man during a dispute over a parking space want to call a Florida sheriff as an expert witness.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Michael Drejka’s attorneys have filed a motion to call Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri to help defend Drejka at his manslaughter trial.

The sheriff would be an unwilling witness: He told the paper he has no intention of testifying for the defense. But it was Gualtieri who initially refused to charge Drejka in the killing of Markeis McGlockton, citing Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.

Drejka, 48, confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend last July 19 for parking in a handicapped spot. Convenience store security video recorded what happened next. It showed McGlockton leaving the store and shoving Drejka to the ground. Seconds later, Drejka pulled a handgun and shot McGlockton as he backed away. McGlockton then ran back inside the store clutching his chest and collapsed, fatally wounded.

Prosecutors disagreed with Gualtieri’s decision and charged Drejka. The stand your ground law says people can use deadly force if they believe they are in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and have no obligation to retreat. Under a 2017 change made by the Legislature, if a suspect raises a stand-your-ground defense, prosecutors must prove the law doesn’t apply.

“The expert will testify that in his opinion, because Mr. Drejka was slammed to the ground that in very short order, he … felt it necessary to defend himself,” the motion says.

Gualtieri, who is a lawyer, said he doesn’t believe the judge will force him.

“My opinion doesn’t matter. The only opinion that matters is what the jury says,” he said. “Anybody can list anybody as a witness, and I’m confident the process will take care of itself and proceed accordingly.”

Drejka’s trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 19.

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Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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