After he shot an unarmed black man outside a convenience store in Florida, Michael Drejka told police that he only fired after the man shoved him to the ground and then ran at him.
But surveillance video of the shooting contradicts him and shows the man, Markeis McGlockton, taking several steps back in the moments before the fatal shot – a point police have challenged Drejka on.
“What happens if I told you that I looked at the video and at no time and point does he come running up toward you. He actually takes a step back,” the officer, Det. Richard Redman, says in an interview with Drejka on the day of the shooting last year.
“I would disagree,” Drejka responded.
Video of that police interview, including Drejka’s reenactment of the shooting, played in court Thursday as part of Drejka’s manslaughter trial for killing McGlockton last July 19 in Clearwater, Florida. His attorney said the killing was in self-defense after Drejka was threatened and then shoved to the ground.
The prosecution rested its case on Thursday after just two days of testimony. The defense called its first witness.
The deadly incident began when Drejka confronted and began yelling at McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, who was parked with two of her children in a handicap-accessible spot outside a Circle A food store. As their argument escalated, McGlockton came from inside the store and forcibly shoved Drejka, who fell to the ground.
Drejka then pulled out his gun and fired at McGlockton, who had taken several steps back, the surveillance video shows.
In opening statements, defense attorney Bryant Camareno argued that Drejka’s comments to police were simply his best recollection of what happened and showed his perception at the time.
“He wasn’t lying, he was remembering the best that he could from the impact that he sustained,” Camareno said.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially declined to arrest Drejka, citing Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which allows people to respond to threats or force without fear of criminal prosecution. But a month later, the state attorney charged Drejka, 49, with manslaughter.
‘I shoot to save my own ass’
Drejka’s attorneys are no longer arguing that he should be immune to prosecution because of “stand your ground,” but Drejka mentioned the law at the end of his interview with police.
“(Unclear) the ‘stand your ground’ thing, and I did exactly what I thought I was supposed to be doing at that time considering what was happening to myself,” he said.
In the police interview, Drejka got down on the ground to reenact the moments of the fatal shooting. He said that he was shoved from the side and thought McGlockton was going to start kicking him and beating him.
“If he was going to hit me that hard to begin with, a blind side from the get-go, what else should I expect?” Drejka said.
Police questioned him several times on the discrepancy between the video and his statements that McGlockton took steps toward him.
“That is exactly what I saw,” Drejka insisted.
In addition, he said he fired just one shot to “neutralize” what he saw as a threat.
“I shoot to save my own ass, and that’s that,” Drejka said in the interview.
McGlockton had MDMA in his system
Thursday also featured testimony from a police use-of-force expert and a pathologist who examined McGlockton.
In his police interview, Drejka mentioned the 21-foot rule – the general idea that a suspect within 21 feet can attack an officer faster than they can pull a weapon and fire. But Roy Dedary, a police trainer, testified for the prosecution that the rule does not mean that you can shoot someone if they are within 21 feet.
A forensic pathologist testified that McGlockton had MDMA, also known as ecstasy, in his system when he died.
Bruce Goldberger, a toxicology expert testifying for the prosecution, said that MDMA is a social drug and causes empathy and euphoria in users. The drug does not, he testified, cause aggressiveness or impulsiveness.
Defense witness, Daniel Buffington, a clinical toxicologist expert, said the amount of MDMA found in McGlockton’s body was “significantly higher” than in a clinical setting.
Buffington, an associate professor at the University of South Florida’s pharmacy department, said the drug causes confusion and aggression and had adverse effects on how McGlockton acted.
Scott Rosenwasser, an assistant state attorney, sought to challenge Buffington’s opinion about the effects of MDMA during cross examination.
Rosenwasser asked if Buffington would agree that euphoria is one of the most common effects of using MDMA.
“Yes, followed by depression and other neurobiological side effects,” Buffington said.
Rosenwasser pointed to an article Buffington used as basis for his opinion, which said the most frequent effects of MDMA included euphoria, happiness and increased empathy.
“I’m not saying those don’t happen. I’m saying that there’s no predictability that that’s going to be the outcome you achieve,” Buffington said.
“But the most frequent effects, what mostly happens are these things,” Rosenwasser said.
Buffington said he agreed. “And I don’t think we saw any of those displayed at the event in this case.”
He said in reviewing the evidence, he didn’t’ see happiness and contentment in McGlockton during the confrontation.
“Were you expecting to see happiness, warmth and contentment when Mr. McGlockton went outside the store after hearing that the defendant, over here, was confronting his girlfriend in the parking lot?” Rosenwasser said.
“I don’t even understand the nature of that question,” Buffington said.
Defense witnesses will continue testimony on Friday.
CNN’s Darran Simon contributed to this report.