How to get away with murder in Florida: Stand Your Ground

Was Don Crandall trying to pick a fight and then use Florida’s “stand your ground” law as a defense?

white man at apartment complex

Flee if you can.

Surrender if you can’t.

But, if you decide to fight back, at least in Florida, beware. When victims fight back and get the upper hand, assailants don’t have to walk away with a few bruises and a lesson about who to mess with. They can legally kill you.

The state’s controversial “stand your ground” law has inadvertently given us the newest way to get away with murder in Florida. You can pick a fight then use deadly force if the victim fights back and you fear you are in imminent danger.

Sounds preposterous?

Consider the recent viral video on Twitter of Don Crandall, a white man,  holding a gun and using his body to prevent four young black men, students at Florida A & M University, from entering a student apartment complex. It’s obvious from watching the video that Crandall, who doesn’t live in the building either, was trying to pick a fight with the young men and hoping they would retaliate so he could stand his ground. Thankfully, the young men didn’t Crandall’s bait.

It’s happened before.

The 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman is proof, that in Florida, you can pick a fight then defend yourself using deadly force when the victim fights back. Zimmerman disregarded a 9-1-1 dispatcher’s order not to approach Martin, who had not been involved in any crime. Martin, after being stalked and then rushed by a strange man at night with no one around, did what any normal person would do. He couldn’t retreat, so he fought back. That’s when Zimmerman, who found himself on the losing end after starting the fight, shot the teen and then claimed it was in self-defense. Even though Martin didn’t have a weapon, in July 2013, a Florida jury found his shooting death was justified under the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Passed in 2005, the well-intended law was meant to give victims the power to fight back with deadly force without the duty to retreat if they fear their life is in jeopardy. But, Martin’s case and other recent cases highlights the law’s major flaw. It gives the aggressor or initiator of the conflict the right to use deadly force, assuming he fears for his life, if the victim fights back and get the upper hand.

Recently, lawmakers shifted the burden of proving a shooter didn’t act in self-defense to the state, making it even easier for someone looking to kill to pick a fight then claim self-defense when the victim fights back. It’s the newest way to get away with murder.

It happened again two months ago.

In July, Michael Drejka fatally shot 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot in Clearwater after McGlockton walked out the store and found Drejka arguing with Britany Jacobs, McGlockton’s girlfriend, over a handicap parking space. Jacobs and the couple’s five-year-old son had been sitting in the car waiting for McGlockton, when Drejka, who is not handicapped, spotted her parked in a handicap parking space. Drejka, 48, says he confronted Jacobs because he has a “pet peeve” about people illegally parking in handicap parking spaces. Video cameras outside the store captured McGlockton walking out the store, getting between Drejka and Jacobs, and then pushing Drejka to the ground. The video clearly shows McGlockton retreating when Drejka, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, pulls out a .40-caliber Glock handgun and shoots him in the left side. McGlockton died later at the hospital.

Initially, Drejka was not arrested or charged with McGlockton’s murder because he claimed he acted in self-defense under the “stand your ground” law.

“I followed the law the way I felt the law was supposed to be followed,” Drejka told a Tampa Bay news outlet. “I cleared every hurdle that that law had put in front of me.”

Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe saw it differently.

On August 13, with the burden now on the state to prove the shooting wasn’t in self-defense, McCabe filed a manslaughter charge against Drejka.

The law, as written, was supposed to protect victims, but somehow, it has allowed angry people, like Zimmerman and Drejka, to pick fights then use deadly force to protect themselves. Repealing the law would be a backwards step for victim rights. A simple fix would be to amend the law by adding a “non-aggressor” clause.

Until that happens, when someone picks a fight with you, beware of fighting back because, in Florida, fighting back can get you “legally” killed.

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Where’s Peggy?

King of the hill - Peggy Anyone seen Peggy?

Salutations!

Some people you meet will greet you with “Hello.”

Some will greet you with “Hi. How are you?”

While others express their pleasure in seeing you with a nod and a smile.

However, I never expected “Where’s Peggy?” to become a standard salutation until the day a family friend, Willie Alfred, began greeting me with me, “Where’s Peggy?”

Every time I crossed paths with Willie Alfred – before he said ‘hello’ or asked how I was doing – he asked me, “Where’s Peggy?”

I usually responded, “I don’t know,” but that didn’t stop him from asking.

“How come you don’t know?” he would then ask.

“I don’t know where she is because I haven’t seen or heard from her in years,” I’d reply.

At that point he would shake his head to show his disgust with my inability to keep up with friends who had moved away without leaving a forwarding address. Remember, this was before the age of Facebook and social media.

“Well, you need to get busy and find her,” he’d respond.

I never understood Willie Alfred’s fascination with Peggy since he only met her once.

Peggy was hanging out with me at a friend’s party when Willie Alfred walked up and asked me who she was.

“Her name’s Peggy,” I answered. “She’s a friend of mine.”

“Well Peggy, you sure are pretty,” he said.

“Thank you,” she replied.

From that day on, every time I saw Willie Alfred he greeted me with “Where’s Peggy?”

During the first month or two, I humored him by responding, “She’s working.” Or, “She’s home.”

However, after a few months, these question and answer sessions about Peggy’s whereabouts began to annoy me.

“Where’s Peggy?” Willie Alfred would ask.

And I’d respond, “I don’t know.” Or, “I haven’t seen her.”

Even though I stopped having answers to his question, he didn’t stop asking.

This annoyed some of my friends even more than it annoyed me.

One day, Willie Alfred walked up to me and a friend of mine and asked, “Where’s Peggy?”

Before I could respond, my friend answered, “She moved to Tennessee.”

Willie Alfred shook his head in disagreement and said, “Peggy ain’t moved.” Then he walked away.

The very next time Willie Alfred saw us, he asked, “Where’s Peggy?”

“She’s dead,” my friend snapped. “Peggy is dead.”

Willie Alfred stepped back, stared sorrowfully into my eyes and asked, “Ant, is Peggy dead?”

Before I could respond, my friend reiterated, “I told you she’s dead.”

Willie Alfred shook his head and walked away with saying another word.

It didn’t take long for my friend to regret what he had said.

The next time we saw Willie Alfred, we smiled and waited for him to ask, “Where’s Peggy?” But he didn’t. He smiled and nodded cordially.

He didn’t ask about Peggy the next time I saw him. Or the next time. My friend had dealt a deadly Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf blow to Peggy and Willie Alfred’s salutation.

Willie Alfred died several years ago, but from the day Tony told him Peggy was dead until his death, he never asked about Peggy again.

I haven’t seen or heard from Peggy since the mid-1980s, but I think it’s time I found my old friend.

Anyone seen Peggy?