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The Court of Public Opinion: The 2018 Case of Michael Drejka

On July 19, 2018, an altercation ensued after 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton violently shoved 47-year-old Michael Drejka to the ground in a parking lot outside a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida. McGlockton blindsided Drejka, who was alerting McGlockton’s wife of the fact that she was illegally parked in a handicap spot. Within 2 seconds of being violently shoved to the ground, Drejka would draw his firearm and discharge a single round that would enter McGlockton’s torso. McGlockton would later die from his injuries at a local hospital. 

In the months following these events, the media hastened to paint the narrative of a racially-motivated killing. In response, the public organized protests against Drejka and what they described as further evidence of racism and white supremacy in the United States. Of course, the events of this case are limited to mere seconds, but the ensuing hours, days, months and years since that moment have afforded every activist and Monday morning quarterback the opportunity to scrutinize every detail and every frame. Drejka would ultimately be convicted of manslaughter, and on October 10, 2019, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Drejka is currently serving his sentence at Lancaster Correctional Institution near Trenton, Florida.

This case, and others surrounding it, prove that trials in modern America are more susceptible than ever to the pressures of media and protest; that rulings often accord with politics instead of the facts. The Drejka case and various others prove that the fanfare surrounding the events can take on a life of its own, adding color and texture to events that are otherwise devoid of these qualities. In the court of law, it is imperative that a jury be impartial and that each juror enter the courtroom without prejudice. In this case, however, the jury and the public saw Drejka first as an armed white man, whereafter every subsequent finding and each of their speculations seemed destined to accord with their first impressions. 

Whereas many Americans today harbor negative attitudes about firearms in general, those attitudes are amplified when combined with the prejudices and predispositions of some who believe that white people are racists by default, or even by definition. It is simply impossible to seek justice in an environment with such hostility and such strong resentment for people on the basis of their ethnicity or appearance. 

In this case, the facts hardly got in the way of the mob as they vilified Drejka and raked him over the coals. In this manner, Drejka stood trial not only for his involvement in the killing of Markeis McGlockton, but as a symbol of everything the mob believes about white people and the United States. 

In modern America, the Left and Black Lives Matter continue in their claims that white people are targeting black people. All of this continues despite the fact that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, violent black-on-white crime incidents exceed the white-on-black variety by a ratio of nearly ten-to-one: this means that, for every violent white-on-black crime, there are roughly ten violent black-on-white crimes. Of course, as they often do, the facts here conflict with the political narrative, but this won’t stop the mob or the media from framing the subject to their advantage. 

It’s fascinating just how many high-profile cases center on the narrative of black men dying at the hands of white men, when the reverse is far more common yet lacking emphasis from the media. There are virtually no mobs, no protests against black-on-white crime, but hardly a week will pass these days without a protest against white people. In the case of Michael Drejka, he was held accountable not for his split-second decision to fire upon Markeis McGlockton, but for the evil that he represents in the minds of so many. 

The verdict issued for Michael Drejka, whether in the court of law or the court of public opinion, was predetermined from the very outset by the prevailing attitudes of protestors, politicians, pundits and propagandists. In the wake of the events outside the convenience store in Clearwater, Florida, precious little sympathy was ever extended to Michael Drejka, who for the rest of his life will be judged for his split-second decision to fire his weapon in self-defense. The final verdict in this case stemmed not from the cold, hard facts, but from the feelings, beliefs and predispositions of those on the jury and others who editorialized the events. 

Whether the juror or the Monday morning quarterback, the people and the media were largely incredulous to Michael Drejka’s defense, opting instead to favor the more fashionable argument. They subjected Drejka and his actions to such harsh scrutiny that the heat of the moment, those two precious seconds, became so much more; that, by the estimation of the prosecution, Drejka, in the course of those two seconds, was engaged in the most profound of contemplation that, when he finally pulled the trigger, he understood that he held the weight of the entire world in his hands. Of course, nothing could be more ridiculous, and nothing could be further from the truth. 

It’s simply amazing just how many people who’ve never been attacked, let alone interrogated in the aftermath of such a violent altercation, think they know how they’d react. In truth, they don’t; and while they can claim all day long that they’d never place themselves in that kind of situation, Drejka clearly didn’t expect to be attacked for calling someone out for parking in a handicap spot. 

We’ll never know exactly what transpired in the minds of the parties involved. We do know, however, that the man who fired his weapon was first attacked by the man who was later struck by the bullet. Modern America is rife with protections for those who initiate violence. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to live in a society where people are genuinely afraid to initiate violence or deprive people of their property. In modern America, however, now more than ever, criminals violate the law, commit acts of arson and violence, and burglarize people’s homes and businesses with virtual impunity. 

The law, as written, is imperfect: in this way, the law stands not to judge on matters of ethics, but on matters adhering as closely as possible to the facts. In this particular case, the video evidence appears to show that the aggressor violently attacked another man who fairly quickly returned fire. That video evidence also appears to show the aggressor backing away from the man wielding the firearm. 

However, the video evidence cannot account for the intense emotions of the moment; it cannot account for the aggressor’s body language, as he is facing away from the camera; it cannot account for the fear and vulnerability which invariably motivated the other man to draw his firearm. 

People can argue on social media and elsewhere until they’re blue in the face, but nobody here can accurately judge the character nor the intentions of the involved parties. There’s simply too much gray area here to run an unassailable argument for or against the prosecution or the defense. 

Needless to say, this was not the proudest moment for any of the involved parties, and it’s easy, with the benefit of hindsight, to point out how all of this could have been avoided. Following the lead of mainstream media, many on social media and elsewhere prefer to blame the man who was violently shoved to the ground. They claim that the man should have minded his own business and ignored the fact that the other parties were illegally parked in a handicap spot. 

This argument is invalid, however, as it’s not only the job of police officers to hold people accountable; it’s the job of all people to speak out against misdeeds. We can all agree that people should park in handicap spots only if they are truly handicapped and therefore authorized to park in those spots. They are marked for good reason, and good people will encourage others to make them available for those who are qualified to use them. 

In this particular regard, the man’s actions are unimpeachable: in fact, he was truly acting in good faith on behalf of the community. Now, some people on social media and elsewhere will cast doubt on his motives, and those are up for debate; however, this debate continues without the facts. 

Nobody can prove the motives nor the intentions of the man who decided to call out those who decided to illegally occupy a handicap parking spot. All claims of this kind amount to sheer speculation. Regrettably, somebody perished as a result of his own decision to attack a man who was prepared to defend himself with potentially-lethal force. The aggressor ultimately perished as a direct result of poor judgment. In the heat of the moment, the aggressor’s victim ultimately pulled the trigger which discharged the bullet that killed the assailant. 

We can speculate all day long about the aggressor’s intentions after his victim drew his firearm, just as we can speculate about the possible course of events in the event that his victim hadn’t pulled the trigger. All of this, however, is sheer speculation. However, we do know that the aggressor’s violent actions were disproportionate to any possible threat posed by the man whom he decided to shove to the ground. 

While there is absolutely no evidence that his victim ever posed a threat to anybody in that moment, the aggressor’s victim, as a consequence of already having been shoved violently to the ground, had valid reasons to expect that his aggressor might continue his assault. In the heat of the moment, especially upon being blindsided, it is impossible to know how you will react; likewise, it is impossible to think carefully in the heat of the moment of such a violent attack; and it is impossible to know how you might recollect those events following such a traumatic event. 

Regrettably, many people rush to assume the worst about the character of the person who even carries a firearm, let alone one who truly believes that he fired his weapon in self-defense; instead, many people sympathize with the family of the deceased. It’s only natural to sympathize in this way, but critical thought brings us back to the truth about an aggressor with a violent temperament who ruthlessly assaulted an older man who, in the estimation of the aggressor, committed the crime of daring to speak to his wife. 

In the events that followed, we had a man attempting to defend his actions, and we had a mob prepared to defame his character with only a video, hindsight and their own predispositions to serve them. In the opinion of many lacking critical life experience and critical thinking skills, people are never justified in killing another human being. 

This opinion, whether stated or otherwise, forms the lens by which some people view cases such as this one. They rush to judgment about the character of a man who could even be involved in such an unspeakable event. 

Truthfully, most people couldn’t possibly imagine taking another human being’s life, and for this reason alone they struggle to accept any justification, let alone any justification shrouded in ambiguity. 

Ultimately, the judicial system doesn’t always get things right. The hope is that, over the long run, they get most things right. In this particular case, there’s simply too much ambiguity and too many unknowns to accurately appraise the intentions of the defendant. After all, if the defendant had sufficiently convinced the jury that he genuinely feared for his life, he would be a free man today. 

However, because the jury concluded, erroneously or otherwise, that the defendant did not fear for his life as he pulled the trigger, they found him guilty of manslaughter. It is here that we find the crux of the case, and it is here that I take exception to any claim of right or wrong. 

In the end, it was a jury of six that ultimately decided the fate of the defendant. It was neither God nor any appointed on his behalf, but a jury of imperfect human beings limited inherently by their own predispositions and the facts of the case. 

Wherever there’s a wealth of sympathy for the family of the aggressor, there ought to be some measure of sympathy for the defendant who’s serving a twenty-year prison sentence for his actions following an attack. 

Remember, we’ll never know what would’ve happened had the aggressor never attacked the defendant; we know only that the defendant consequently fired his weapon in self-defense, and that the jury wasn’t convinced that his method of self-defense was justified by the circumstances. There’s far too much here for any manmade court to unpack: only God can issue the final verdict, and that applies not only to the aggressor and the defendant, but to those who’ve issued their own judgments and contributed to these proceedings. 

Beyond the case and the courtroom, I believe we all will do well to think more carefully, to have more compassion, and to have more sympathy for those with whom we disagree. I’m confident that this would’ve served all of the parties involved in this case, and that, had these attitudes prevailed, nobody would’ve gotten hurt.


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