ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A Florida sheriff on Monday responded to sharp criticism from Al Sharpton for not arresting a white man who shot and killed an unarmed black man during a parking lot dispute last month.
Sharpton criticized Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri at a Sunday rally for Markeis McGlockton.
But is Sharpton nothing more than a destructive distraction who gets his base riled into a frenzy?
McGlockton was shot on July 19 by Michael Drejka in Clearwater, according to FOX13 Tampa Bay. Drekja told deputies he believed his life was in grave danger. At the time of the shooting, police did not arrest him, citing the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
“This case should not be tried in a parking lot of a convenience store,” Sharpton said. “It should be tried in a courtroom.”
As a result, Gualtieri was asked about Sharpton’s comments Monday during a press conference for an unrelated investigation.
“It’s a bunch of rhetoric. I don’t pay much attention to it, to tell you the truth. I wasn’t there, and I don’t really care what Al Sharpton has to say,” Gualtieri said. “Go back to New York. Mind your own business.”
In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, a spokeswoman for Sharpton compared the sheriff’s comments to “those of sheriffs out of the 1960s that used to call civil rights leaders invited in by victims, “outside agitators.’”
Consequently, Sharpton plans to keep returning to Clearwater regardless of Gualtieri’s remarks.
Florida prosecutors said last week they will review the case. The Pinellas County State Attorney said there was no time frame for how long it will take to review the case and determine whether charges should be filed against Drejka.
Some are now left to wonder, will the public attention make a difference in what State Attorney Bernie McCabe decides?
“When a prosecutor looks at this case, they’re not looking at it as to whether it will be popular,” said lawyer and legal analyst Anthony Rickman. “It’s whether or not they can prove this charge.”
Rickman argues prosecutors would need to believe they could prove clearly and convincingly this is not a case where Stand Your Ground would apply.
Rickman says that’s an even higher burden than the sheriff has already said he couldn’t meet to charge Drejka.
“They’re going to take their time,” said Rickman. “They will base their decision on the facts, the evidence, the video, and more importantly the law.”
The sheriff wouldn’t comment any further about the rally, but when asked about the five Democratic candidates for governor attending Sunday’s event, he said, they’re politicking.
“The facts and the law matter,” he added. “Learn the facts and learn the law, and then you can opine.”
On Monday, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis joined the Democratic candidates in saying he did not believe the sheriff was appropriately applying the law.
Nevertheless, unlike several of the Democratic candidates, he does not believe the law should be repealed.