Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continued Tuesday to stress differences with the other gubernatorial candidates over the justification behind the Markeis McGlockton killing, a potential preview of talking points from his debate with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Jacksonville Wednesday evening.
McGlockton was fatally shot on July 19 by Michael Drejka in Pinellas County in a dispute over a parking place that went from verbal to physical to fatal.
DeSantis and the Democrats have said that they don’t see the killing of McGlockton as a “Stand Your Ground” case. However, Putnam took a different position in a conversation Monday with Florida Politics in Jacksonville.
“It’s a decision that’s in the hands of the state attorney who has access to far more of the full picture of what went down,” Putnam said, “than just the video that we’ve all seen in the media.”
“I certainly have a lot of respect for Sheriff (Bob) Gualtieri,” Putnam added, “who also has a law degree by the way. And I’m confident that the state attorney will make the decision that’s right in the eyes of the law.”
In a position that diverges from Putnam’s and Gualtieri’s interpretation, DeSantis said in a statement to POLITICO, “It doesn’t seem to me that the law is even applicable in the case of Markeis McGlockton, and I don’t think the Pinellas County sheriff analyzed the law properly.”
Putnam’s campaign amplified differences with DeSantis on Tuesday, with pitched rhetoric: “D.C. DeSantis has betrayed President Trump and law-abiding citizens by siding with Al Sharpton and liberal Democrats to tear down Stand Your Ground.”
Putnam added that DeSantis “ought to be ashamed of siding with Al Sharpton and liberal Democrats instead of standing for Floridians’ constitutional rights.”
Gualtieri, who has endorsed Putnam for Governor, said security camera footage of McGlockton shoving Drejka to the ground before the shooting made the case fit within the framework of the SYG law as written. That’s because, Gualtieri contends, the law was amended by the Legislature in 2017 to require law enforcement to prove a shooter didn’t feel threatened before they may file criminal charges.
“Nowhere else is there anything like this in criminal law, where somebody asserts something, and the burden then shifts to the other person,” Gualtieri said. “So, the law is changed dramatically because you’ve got a situation here where ‘stand your ground’ allows for a subjective belief by the person that they are in harm’s way, they are in fear.”
Where many differ with that opinion is the video clip of the seconds before Drejka fired. SYG removes the “duty to retreat” before lethal force may be used in self defense, but the footage appears to show McGlockton backing away from Drejka, thereby deescalating the altercation, once the weapon was drawn.
Democrats over the weekend appeared with the Rev. Al Sharpton and all five candidates support repeal of the SYG law.
Additionally, the Clearwater branch of the NAACP has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case while national racial justice group Color of Change has started a campaign to “Stop ‘Stand Your Ground.” Their efforts include a petition to encourage Bernie McCabe, the state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco counties, to file charges against Drejka and the recent opening of a state-level political committee to raise funds and get their message out.
Drew Wilson contributed to this post.