CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - The Pinellas County sheriff says his deputies are still investigating the deadly Clearwater shooting that has caught national attention, and insisted that Florida law prevents him from making any arrests yet.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri expected to be joined by city leaders from the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance and the NAACP to discuss the ongoing investigation regarding the shooting of Markeis McGlockton. But the sheriff kicked off his press conference by saying they had canceled just minutes earlier, with no explanation.
McGlockton was shot earlier this month after shoving the shooter, Michael Drejka, to the ground. The 47-year-old confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend for parking in a convenience store handicapped spot. While on the ground, Drejka pulled out his gun and fired a single fatal round at McGlockton, deputies say.
Drejka was not immediately arrested by deputies because of Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' law, which allows the use of deadly force in cases of self-defense. But it's not fully clear if that law applies in this case.
"We are still actively investigating this manner," Gualtieri stated. "We have not turned this case over to the State Attorney's Office, but we expect to do that shortly."
He also said racism does not play a role or a reason to why Drejka wasn't taken into custody. He said there was a case last year where Pinellas County deputies arrested a white male, but the state attorney didn't file any charges, citing Stand Your Ground.
"People are jumping to conclusions that are irresponsible because that is what gets people riled up," Gualtieri explained. "It is false and self-serving to say this is a racial issue."
Gualtieri insisted that changes to the law, passed by the Legislature last year, prevent law enforcement from detaining anyone while evidence supporting Stand Your Ground claims is reviewed. He said the controversial law is not purely objective. It is also subjective, Gualtieri said, because law enforcement and the state attorney must consider the perception of the person who used force.
"If you don't like it, if you don't like the fact that he's not sitting in jail right now, go talk to the Legislature," he explained.
The Clearwater/Upper Pinellas County Branch of the NAACP, meanwhile, issued a statement again calling for an immediate arrest in the case. Citing a Politico article, chapter president Marva McWhite wrote said that the NAACP had expected Drejka to be arrested yesterday.
"The Sheriff made mention in his press conference that he met with both groups and thought we were on the same page. The page we are on is that we were still calling for an arrest," she wrote.