Jurors Continue Deliberations After Prosecutor Calls Michael Drejka A 'Vigilante'
Jurors are deliberating the fate of a white Florida man charged with fatally shooting an unarmed black man after being shoved during a parking lot altercation.
The six-member panel in Clearwater began discussions late Friday afternoon on whether Michael Drejka is guilty of manslaughter for the July 2018 death of 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton.
Late Friday night, the jury sent 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.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser told jurors that Drejka provoked McGlockton to shove him by yelling at McGlockton's girlfriend because she was parked in a handicapped space and then fired as McGlockton started to flee.
Drejka is a "vigilante" who carried a handgun because he liked provoking confrontations with people parked illegally in handicapped-accessible spaces, Rosenwasser said.
Rosenwasser said Drejka can't claim self-defense because he had no reasonable belief that he was about to be seriously injured or killed during the July 18, 2018, altercation outside a Circle A convenience store. Drejka said during a video-recorded interview with Pinellas County sheriff's detectives five hours after the shooting that illegal parking in handicapped spots is his "pet peeve" so he will frequently walk around their cars and take photos, using an expletive to say he is trying to mess with the drivers.
"He is a parking lot vigilante," Rosenwasser said.
In the recorded interview, Drejka told the detectives that after McGlockton pushed him, he feared he was about to be further attacked and severely injured. His attorneys have contended that McGlockton was high on Ecstasy and acted irrationally, forcing Drejka to defend himself.
Rosenwasser narrated Friday as he played clips from the parking lot and from Drejka's interview as he tried to persuade jurors Drejka's actions were unjustified and that he lied to detectives about what happened.
The parking lot video shows McGlockton walking into the store with his 5-year-old son while his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, remained in the car with their two younger children. Rosenwasser paused the video as Drejka pulled in moments later, pointing out that he parked outside any marked space and perpendicular to Jacobs, blocking the handicapped ramp on the sidewalk. He said that shows Drejka wasn't there to get energy drinks, as he told detectives, but to confront the person he suspected was parked illegally.
He pointed out that when detectives asked Drejka if he feared confronting illegal parkers might escalate into an altercation, Drejka replied he had a concealed weapons permits and "always" carries his handgun.
Rosenwasser said it was understandable that Jacobs would put down her window and ask him Drejka what he was doing as he peered at the back and front of the car and through the windshield as he checked for handicap placards and stickers. He said that is what caused the nearly 2-minute argument between the two that had others in the parking lot stopping to look and caused one man to tell the clerk there was an altercation brewing outside.
It was then that McGlockton put down the drinks and snacks he was buying and go outside. He walked briskly toward the car and when Jacobs stepped out next to Drejka, McGlockton shoved him. Drejka, who said he never saw McGlockton approaching, landed on his back and quickly pulled his handgun and leveled it at McGlockton.
Rosenwasser said if Drejka had stopped there, he would have been justified. Instead, Rosenwasser said the video shows Drejka fired after McGlockton took three steps backward and started to turn toward the store. The bullet hit his left side, tearing through his heart.
Drejka told detectives McGlockton had taken two steps toward him and he was afraid he was about to be kicked and then beaten. He told detectives he never looked at McGlockton's hands, so he didn't know if he had a weapon.
Rosenwasser's final focus was on Drejka's own words, when he conceded to detectives that if McGlockton were retreating he would have had no reason to shoot.
"The defendant himself tells you it's manslaughter," Rosenwasser told the jurors. "You know what Markeis McGlockton is guilty of? He is guilty of loving and trying to protect his family and he died because of it."