Michael Drejka Found Guilty Of Manslaughter In Clearwater Parking Lot Shooting
Updated 8/24 at 8 a.m.:
A white Florida man who told detectives he had a "pet peeve" about illegal parking in handicapped spots was convicted late Friday of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in a dispute over a handicapped spot.
Six jurors deliberated for six hours before convicting Michael Drejka for the July 19, 2018, death of Markeis McGlockton. Drejka, who could get 30 years, looked down after the verdict was read then wiped his brow with a blue handkerchief. The 49-year-old Drejka was ordered held without bond until his sentencing in October. He stared straight ahead as he was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom. Members of McGlockton's family could be heard weeping behind him.
The verdict came about a half-hour after jurors sent out a confusing note to Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone, who asked the six-member panel what they meant when they sent the note to him that restated portions of Florida's self-defense law.
They said they were having difficulties understanding the law. Bulone reread them the lengthy statute, which generally says Drejka could shoot McGlockton if a reasonable person under the same circumstances would believe he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury.
Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, one of Drejka's attorneys, told reporters outside the courthouse that she respected the verdict, but her team would likely file an appeal. She expressed her condolences to the McGlockton family and said that while she was disappointed in the verdict, she was "happy they received the justice they were seeking."
"My family can finally rest now," McGlockton's father, Michael McGlockton, told reporters.
"Now we can start to put the pieces back together," he added.
Drejka had confronted McGlockton's girlfriend for parking in a handicapped space while McGlockton went inside a convenience store. Security video recorded McGlockton leaving the store and shoving Drejka to the ground. Seconds later, Drejka pulled out a handgun and shot McGlockton, 28, as he backed away. McGlockton ran inside the store, where he collapsed and died.
The video was played multiple times for the jury of five men and a woman.
Drejka didn't testify on his behalf, although jurors were played a video of his interview with detectives.
Drejka told the detectives he has a "pet peeve" about illegal parking in handicapped spots and often walks around such cars looking for handicapped stickers and placards, sometimes taking photographs. He said he often sees people illegally parked in the handicapped spot at that convenience store, but the owner doesn't do anything about it.
Drejka said he saw McGlockton's car in the handicapped spot in July 2018, so he went to its back and front, looking for stickers, which store security video shows. He said the car's windows were tinted, so he didn't know anyone was inside.
He said McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, partially put down her window and asked what he was doing. He said he told her it was "not very polite" to park in the spot and "she took that as an affront." He said that sparked an argument that got heated, with Jacobs saying "Do I have to get my man?"
Jacobs, who was waiting in the car with two of her children with McGlockton, testified that Drejka started walking around her car, stopped in the front, and then started pointing and yelling at her for parking in a handicapped spot. She said she eventually cracked the window to hear what he was saying and a screaming match ensued.
Jacobs and a witness, Robert Castelli, testified that McGlockton was backing up after shoving Drejka. Both said McGlockton didn't take a step forward, toward Drejka as he was on the ground after being shoved.
When a detective in the video interview asked Drejka why he fired his gun, he said, "I have never been in that situation before, but I thought kicks were coming... I think he is coming to do the rest of it."
Prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser said during closing arguments earlier Friday that Drejka provoked McGlockton to shove him by yelling at Jacobs instead of calling the police if he felt so strongly about her being parked in the handicapped spot. Testimony showed he had confronted a septic truck driver for parking in the same spot months earlier, leading to an argument.
“He is a parking lot vigilante,” Rosenwasser said.
Defense attorney John Trevena told the jurors such comments are ridiculous. Drejka retired in his 30s from his tree-trimming job because of health problems.
“Does he look like Charles Bronson in ‘Death Wish’?” he asked, referring to the 1974 action movie. “This isn’t a vigilante.”
Drejka, the son of a police officer, had no record before the shooting.
This is a developing story. Stay with WUSF for coverage.
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