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Stand your Ground? The moment Michael Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton in a Clearwater parking lot.

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Joe Henderson: Video proved Michael Drejka wasn’t standing his ground

But if security cameras weren’t running when he shot Markeis McGlockton, could Drejka have gone free?

The jury in the Michael Drejka manslaughter trial got it right. He wasn’t standing his ground when he shot Markeis McGlockton to death in the parking lot of a Clearwater convenience store.

Drejka acted like a reckless crackpot with an itchy trigger finger, and he believed that a misguided law had him covered. He awaits a judge’s decision on how much time he will spend in prison because of that miscalculation.

Case closed, right?

Yeah, maybe — this time anyway.

Drejka’s attorneys will appeal the conviction, and with how the Stand Your Ground law is written the verdict could be overturned. It is a little vague.

But even if you trust a judge to uphold the conviction, what happens when the next Michael Drejka comes along — only this time, without video of the act?

That store security camera might be the only reason Drejka was found guilty. In the video, we see McGlockton shove the much-smaller Drejka to the ground during an argument.

Drejka then pulled his gun, and McGlockton clearly began to retreat. Drejka fired his weapon, and we all know what happened after that.

Even the staunchest of Second Amendment supporters like state Sen. Dennis Baxley and Marion Hammer distanced themselves from Drejka after watching the video.

Without proof of what happened, though, Drejka had a good chance of walking free. He might not even have faced a trial.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially believed the shooting was covered by Stand Your Ground. And gun-rights advocates would have been shouting that Drejka’s action was justified.

Passed in 2005 by the Legislature, at the urging of the National Rifle Association, the law eliminates the so-called “duty to retreat” when confronted with danger. Residents can use lethal force if they reasonably believe they’re at the risk of great harm or death.

The key word there is “reasonably.” By itself, that can be difficult to define.

However, the video basically destroyed any argument Drejka might have to justify the shooting. I mean, come on — McGlockton was the one who was retreating. Shooting him was not, as they say, reasonable.

But lawmakers also tacked on a requirement that prosecutors have to prove a shooter didn’t feel threatened. Without video evidence, convincing a jury that Drejka should not have believed his life was in peril would have been a steep hill.

I know it seems like cameras are everywhere these days, but they’re not.

And what happens when the next jittery person with a Glock decides someone’s passing glance was a threat that demanded lifesaving action? Only this time, all police and prosecutors have to go on is that the shooter said he feared for his life?

That’s the problem with Stand Your Ground. There’s too much guesswork involved, and there won’t always be cameras to fill in the blanks.

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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