CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – The trial for a highly-controversial shooting case that made national headlines last year begins this week in Pinellas County.
Michael Drejka is on trial for the 2018 shooting death of Markeis McGlockton. A jury will have to decide whether they believe Drejka was acting in self-defense or committed manslaughter.
Here’s what you need to know about the case as the trial begins.
The July 19, 2018, shooting death of Markeis McGlockton stemmed from an argument over a handicapped parking spot at a Clearwater convenience store.
Pinellas County deputies say 24-year-old Britany Jacobs parked her 2016 Chrysler 2000 in a handicapped parking spot outside the Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road in Clearwater. She waited outside in the car while her boyfriend, 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton took their 5-year-old son into the store.
While Jacobs was waiting, detectives say Michael Drejka approached her. The two then got into an argument about Jacobs parking in a handicapped spot.
A witness who saw Drejka and Jacobs arguing walked into the store and let the clerk know what was happening. According to witnesses, McGlockton left the store, at that point, and walked over to Drejka, who was still arguing with Jacobs.
Surveillance video shows McGlockton forcibly push Drejka to the ground. The video shows Drejka then take out a handgun and fire a single round at McGlockton, hitting him in the chest.
McGlockton was rushed to Morton Plant Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
‘Stand Your Ground’ argument
Deputies who responded to the shooting said Drejka was cooperative and told them he put his gun in his Toyota 4Runner before they arrived. Deputies took possession of the gun and noted that Drejka had a valid Florida concealed weapons license.
Drejka was taken in to be interviewed by deputies but was not arrested. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri explained why no arrest was made during a news conference about the shooting.
“Under these circumstances, where you have somebody that is unprovoked, slammed to the ground like that…and his statement that he believed that McGlockton was going to come back at him, and he fired in a very short amount of time – 4 seconds probably, somewhere in that range. That is within the bookends of ‘Stand Your Ground’ and within the bookends of force being justified,” Gualtieri said at the time.
During his news conference, the sheriff noted that the case would be turned over to the state attorney’s office.
In the days following the shooting, 8 On Your Side spoke with a truck driver who claimed he got into a dispute with Drejka over a handicap space months before the deadly shooting.
Additional reports released after the shooting showed Drejka had a history of road rage encounters.
McGlockton’s death and the lack of immediate arrest sparked outrage around the nation and led to growing calls for Florida to end its “Stand Your Ground” law.
The shooting made national headlines and drew attention from several high-profile civil rights activists, including Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton visited Clearwater for a rally in support of McGlockton and his family.
The week after the shooting, McGlockton’s girlfriend hired Benjamin Crump, the national civil rights and personal injury attorney who represented Trayvon Martin’s family. Crump demanded justice for McGlockton and called on State Attorney Bernie McCabe to file charges against Drejka.
Court paperwork obtained by 8 On Your Side stated McGlockton “immediately backed up” when confronted with Drejka’s gun. An autopsy later confirmed McGlockton was turning away when he was shot.
Drejka was arrested and charged with manslaughter on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, after the state attorney finished reviewing the case.
He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on $100,000 bond. A judge also ordered Drejka to not leave the county, be equipped with a GPS monitor and have no contact with the victims. He was ordered to give up his firearms while the state was in the process of suspending his concealed carry permit.
Drejka bonded out of jail on Sept. 24 after spending more than a month behind bars.
Dropping ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense
Just months before Drejka’s trial was set to begin, his defense attorneys dropped the “Stand Your Ground” defense.
The defense team announced before a pretrial hearing in June that they decided, “it would not be in our client’s best interest to proceed with the ‘Stand Your Ground’ motion.”
In a statement, the attorneys said they would still argue Drejka was acting in self-defense when he shot McGlockton.
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