Prosecuting attorney Fred Schaub said convenience store surveillance video showed that Michael Drejka fatally shot Markeis McGlockton as McGlockton was turning away from him.
But defense attorney Bryant Camareno said the same video, watched without slow motion, showed that Drejka was acting in self-defense after McGlockton shoved him and his girlfriend threatened him.
“We want you to look at the video, but we want you to look at it in real time,” Camareno said. “Life doesn’t happen in slow motion. Life didn’t happen in slow motion for Mr. Drejka.”
Both sides focused closely on that same video during opening statements Wednesday on the first day of Drejka’s manslaughter trial in Clearwater, Florida, for killing McGlockton. And overall, the prosecution and defense generally agreed on the main facts of the case. But they differed in how the jury should interpret those facts.
McGlockton’s death brought renewed scrutiny to Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which says that a person has no duty to retreat and has the right to use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes” that doing so will prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.
But the law also states that “stand your ground” does not apply to a person who initially provokes the use of force against himself, unless he has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger. Drejka’s attorneys are not arguing a “stand your ground” case, and are instead saying the shooting was justified on general self-defense grounds.
In addition to opening statements, Wednesday’s court hearing included testimony from Britany Jacobs, one of the central witnesses in the case.
The incident began when Drejka got into an argument with Jacobs, McGlockton’s girlfriend, for parking in a handicap-accessible spot last July. As the argument intensified, McGlockton, who had been inside the store, walked over and forcibly shoved Drejka, who then stumbled to the ground. Drejka then pulled out his firearm and shot McGlockton in the chest.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially declined to arrest Drejka, citing the “stand your ground” law. But a month later, the state attorney charged Drejka with manslaughter, and he has pleaded not guilty.
McGlockton’s girlfriend testifies
Britany Jacobs, now 26, said McGlockton was her soulmate. They have four children together, including one who was born after his death.
She said that she parked in the Circle A handicapped-accessible spot last July, and McGlockton and then-5-year-old Markeis Jr. went inside the store while she stayed in the car with their two other children.
Jacobs testified that she became scared when a strange man, Drejka, came over and started angrily pointing and yelling at her about the parking spot. She said she told him she would leave the spot when her family gets back, but he kept arguing.
“He says, ‘people that park here I give problems to all the time,’” she testified.
She raised her voice as well and told him to leave her and her kids alone, and the conversation became heated.
“I said, ‘Do you want me to get my man?’ He said, ‘if he wants to fight,’” she testified.
As the argument continued, McGlockton came over from the store, said “get away from my girl,” and shoved Drejka, she testified. When Drejka pulled out his weapon, she testified that both she and McGlockton retreated.
One witness, Robert Castelli, testified that he pulled up to the convenience store and saw a man very loudly yelling at a car. He told the clerk there was an altercation outside, and McGlockton, at the counter, put his stuff down and went outside, Castelli testified.
He watched the shooting and he saw McGlockton grab his side and run toward the store, he testified. Drejka, he said, walked toward his car and then put his gun away.
“He was also muttering things to himself. You know, ‘He shouldn’t have pushed me down. What did he think was going to happen.’ Not full sentences, just phrases really,” he testified.
An officer who responded to the scene also testified that Drejka was compliant with police after the shooting.
Man says Drejka threatened him before
Richard “Ricky” Kelly, an employee at AA Septic Company, testified about a previous threatening incident with Drejka at that same convenience store similar to the fatal shooting.
Kelly, who drives a tanker, said he went to the Circle A convenience store in February 2018 and parked in a handicap-accessible spot. He went inside the store and when he came out, he saw Drejka taking pictures of his tanker.
They got into a dispute about the parking spot, as Drejka said his mother was disabled, and the situation quickly escalated.
“He said, ‘I should shoot you, kill you,’” Kelly said.
Drejka walked back to his own vehicle and then walked back toward Kelly, he testified. Finally, the owner of the store came out to calm down the situation, and Kelly then left the scene, he said.
Kelly’s boss, John Tyler, then received a phone call from Drejka about the incident, Tyler testified. Drejka said his employee had been parked in a handicap-accessible spot and had been rude, Tyler testified.
“He said, ‘If I had a gun, I could have shot him,’” Tyler testified. “I said, ‘I’m sorry that you would feel that way. I carry a gun and my training I was taught to remove myself from those situations. Don’t let yourself get into those situations.’”
The conversation continued in circles, so they agreed to disagree, Tyler said.
Abdalla Salous, the owner of the Circle A convenience store, testified that he knew both Kelly and Drejka for a long time. He recalled breaking up Drejka and Kelly’s argument, but he said that Drejka was usually calm.