A Florida man with a concealed weapon permit who took it upon himself to patrol a convenience store parking lot was convicted of manslaughter Friday for killing a man over a handicapped parking space.
Wannabe cop Michael Drejka insisted he shot a man out of fear for his life last July, but it took the jury six hours to conclude that was a lie.
But because of Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law, it took nearly a month for prosecutors to charge Drejka with manslaughter. And only after a national outcry.
Drejka had a history of threatening to kill people over minor issues, flashing his gun at people, then pulling out his gun permit when questioned by police but karma finally caught up to him this week.
"The jury in this case sent a crystal clear message – violent racism has no place in American society," McGlockton family attorney Benjamin Crump said. "Today’s verdict marks a victory over stand your ground.”
The incident took place on July 19, 2018 when Markeis McGlockton, his girlfriend Britany Jacobs and their children pulled into a convenience store on a seemingly regular Thursday afternoon. Jacobs parked her car and stayed back while McGlockton and their son shopped in the Circle A Food Store.
Detectives said then 24-year-old Jacobs was waiting outside when an eager Michael Drejka, twice her age, walked up to her, taking an issue with Jacobs being improperly parked in a handicapped parking spot.
A witness saw Drejka and Jacobs arguing and told the clerk in the store. That’s when McGlockton stepped out to see what was happening.
Surveillance footage shows McGlockton pushing Drejka to the ground, seeing that he was intimidating his girlfriend.
Within four, no more than five seconds, Drejka, still on the ground, whipped out his handgun and fired a single shot into McGlockton’s chest. The father soon collapsed in the convenient store and died 36 minutes later at a nearby hospital.
Deputies were on the scene and spoke with Drejka but could not arrest him because Florida's "stand your ground" law allows police to investigate but not arrest a person for defending themselves unless it was deemed unlawful.
“Markeis wouldn’t be dead if Markeis didn’t slam this guy to the ground,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a press conference held a day after the shooting.
During his interrogation by Pinellas County sheriff's detectives, Drejka used cop language to describe why he was in fear for his life, saying "If he hadn't twitched, I would have never pulled the trigger. The feet said he was coming toward me and so did the hips."
But surveillance footage showed he took a step away from Drejka as soon as McGlockton saw his gun.
Drejka also said people parking in the handicapped spot pissed him off because what if “his mother-in-law rolls in?”
She died in 2011.
Just shy of a month following McGlockton’s death, after protests and public outcry, Bernie McCabe, state attorney for Pinellas County, arrested Drejka and charged him with manslaughter.
The Shooter’s Past
Prosecutors questioned Drejka’s reason to pull the trigger, noting his confrontational approach in the McGlockton shooting and his reckless past with his gun.
At the press conference held after the shooting, a reporter revealed the owner of the convenience store said Drejka “was a nuisance there.” Files and reports also showed that since 2012, Drejka had been accused of letting his anger get the best of him in four incidents.
Two 18-year-olds said Drejka followed them in his black pickup in 2012 because he was angry they cut him off. The teens said Drejka flashed his gun to them after stopping at a traffic light.
They wrote down the truck’s license plate number and cops traced the car back to Drejka and confronted him at his Clearwater home. Drejka denied following the teens and threatening them with his gun, but the cops didn’t buy it. They warned him he was lucky the teens didn’t file a criminal complaint because he could have lost his concealed carry permit.
Later that year, another group of people sought help from a Largo cop after being threatened with a gun by Drejka while in his black pickup.
The alleged crime? The group was driving too slow in a school zone.
When the cop pulled him over, without asking a single question, Drejka held up his license and concealed carry permit and asserted he didn’t threaten anyone.
For the second time, passengers in another car reported being threatened by Drejka with a gun and for the second time, cops found it highly suspicious that random people would lie about seeing a gun in a stranger’s car.
Drejka went on to brake check a mother and her two children in 2013 causing an estimated $8,000 in damages to her car and threatened to shoot another person in 2018 over the same handicapped parking spot, at the same convenience store McGlockton was shot at.
Drejka called Rick Kelly’s job to tell his boss he was "lucky I didn’t blow his head off."
"I said, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, that you feel that it’s justified to take someone’s life over a parking space,’" owner of the Clearwater septic tank company John Tyler said. "That was the chilling part about it when I found out who it was with the (McGlockton) situation."
Detective George Moffett pressed Drejka in his interrogation, asking if he was ever concerned about potentially violent confrontations when he deals with people who improperly park in handicapped spots without calling the police.
"That's why I take precautions. I'm a very careful person. I have a [concealed weapon] permit," Drejka said.
Moffett later updated Drejka that McGlockton died to which he replied, “Thanks for telling me.”
“When reasonable fear is presumed, the burden of proof lies with the dead”
With support from the National Rifle Association, Florida shifted the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecutor in “SYG” cases in 2017. This means instead of the shooter proving she or he was scared, the victim, or in McGlockton’s case, the victim’s family, must prove the shooter’s means do not justify the end.
Many worry “SYG” laws provide racists legal ways to kill. Since Florida passed its version of the law in 2005 and other states followed suit, the number of justified homicides in pro-SYG states increased exponentially.
In 2010, there were 222 justified homicides in pro-SYG states versus 104 justified homicides in non-SYG states. In 2000, there was only a combined amount of 176 justified homicides.
Race, Racism and the Law found that, “since 2005, on average white on black killings are justified 17% of the time while black on white killings are justified 1% of the time” in pro-SYG states. The statistics are similar in non-SYG states.
Critics have also long accused the controversial law as a “shoot first, ask questions later” defense. Michael Dunn tried arguing that defense when he shot 10 bullets into a car and killed Jordan Davis in 2012 because he and his friends were playing their music too loud.
He opened fire within four minutes.
"You aren't going to talk to me like that," a witness heard him say before opening fire, killing the 17-year-old.
Dunn is now serving a life sentence without parole.