(CLEARWATER, Fla.) — The man accused of shooting a Florida father in front of his family in an argument over a handicap parking space outside a convenience store has been found guilty of manslaughter.
Michael Drejka had argued he acted in self-defense, and initially invoked the controversial “stand your ground” law that earned widespread attention during the trial of George Zimmerman in 2013. The jury came to its guilty decision late Friday after about six hours of deliberation.
Drejka showed no emotion in court as the verdict was read. He will return to court for sentencing on Oct. 10.
Just hours after gunning Markeis McGlockton down, Drejka told detectives he opened fire when the unarmed man shoved him to the ground and took one step toward him, a scenario that appears to go against a security video showing the victim step back when he saw the suspect pull a firearm.
“We are incredibly grateful and thankful to the prosecution,” McGlockton family attorney Michelle Rayner said following the verdict. “We are grateful to the jurors of this case that they saw what we saw and I’m so proud and honored to stand here with Markeis’ family. It has been the honor of my life.”
A video of the lengthy interrogation of suspect Michael Drejka by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office detectives was shown to a jury on Thursday, the second day of the 48-year-old suspect’s trial on a manslaughter charge stemming from the 2018 fatal shooting of McGlockton outside a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida.
“What’s going through my mind is he’s coming after me again. I was thinking he’s going to finish what he started,” Drejka told detectives, according to the interrogation video.
“It’s been well over a year since we’ve been dealing with this matter and I can safely say my family can rest now,” McGlockton’s brother, Michael, said Friday. “Now we can start putting the pieces back together and move on.”
Drejka, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, told detectives that after the victim “blindsided me out of nowhere” and “tackled” him to the ground outside the Circle A store, he drew his Glock pistol from his holster as McGlockton took a step toward him.
“He barely took the second step before I pulled the trigger,” Drejka told detectives George Moffett and Richard Redman, according to the video.
He said that from his position on the ground, he never saw McGlockton’s face or hands before he fired.
“I could see his legs. I know he was a black guy, that’s all,” he told the detectives, according to the video.
He said McGlockton never said a word to him and he didn’t say anything to him before he shot him.
“If he hadn’t twitched, I would have never pulled the trigger,” Drejka had said. “The feet said he was coming toward me and so did the hips.”
Video footage from a security camera in front of the Circle A that captured the July 19, 2018, fatal shooting appears to contradict what Drejka told the detectives.
The security video, which has been played multiple times for the six-member jury, shows Drejka apparently arguing with McGlockton’s girlfriend, Brittany Jacobs, over why she was parked in a handicap space when McGlockton comes out of the store and shoves Drejka to the ground. In a split second, Drejka pulls his gun and fires as McGlockton was stepping away from the man, according to the security video.
During the interrogation, which Drejka submitted to after waiving his Miranda rights to remain silent, Det. Moffett challenged Drejka’s recollection of how the shooting transpired.
“What if I tell you I looked at the video and he took a step back?” Moffett asked Drejka.
Drejka responded, “I’d disagree.”
Drejka initially invoked Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” self-defense law that went into effect in 2005, allowing people to use lethal force if they consider their lives to be in imminent jeopardy. But Drejka and his attorneys have since scrapped that argument in favor of a plain self-defense case.
During the interrogation, which occurred almost six hours after the shooting, Drejka explained that he has a “pet peeve” about people parking in handicap spaces despite not being disabled himself. He said that when he saw Jacobs sitting in a car in the handicap space, he examined the front and rear of her car to see if it had a disabled person parking permit.
“I said, ‘it’s not very polite to park there when there’s other people that need to use this,'” Drejka said he told Jacobs, according to the interrogation video. ”She says, ‘Is it affecting you directly?’ I said, ‘If my mother-in-law rolls in, yes it will.'”
On Wednesday, Jacobs testified that Drejka was yelling and cursing at her for parking in a handicapped spot. She said she was inside the car with her two younger children, an infant and a 3-year-old, and that Drejka “scared” her.
“He was more angry and aggressive. He was yelling and pointing and telling me where I should park,” Jacobs testified. “I just wanted this man to leave me alone, just leave me and my babies alone.”
Moffett, during the interrogation, asked Drejka why he didn’t call law enforcement when he saw Jacobs in the handicap spot, saying, “Wouldn’t you think it would be better instead of putting yourself in that type of circumstance that could escalate?”
Drejka responded, “Why bother you with stupid things like that?”
He said by the time law enforcement arrived, the person he complained about would have already left the scene, adding, “They always do.”
“When I just say something to a person about being parked there, I don’t expect it to go where it went,” Drejka told the detectives.
Moffett pressed him, asking if he was concerned about prompting a violent confrontation when he previously complained about people parking in handicap spaces.
Drejka answered, “That’s why I take precautions. I’m a very careful person. I have a [concealed weapon] permit.”
Near the end of the interrogation, Moffett informed Drejka that McGlockton had died.
“Thanks for telling me,” Drejka said.
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