PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida man accused of killing Markeis McGlockton during a parking space altercation at a Clearwater convenience store is out on $100,000 bail, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
The case has spurred debate over Florida’s “stand your ground” law, considered one of the toughest in the country. The law grants immunity to anyone acting in self-defense and puts the burden of proof on the state.
Video surveillance from the store shows Michael Drejka arguing with McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, on July 19 before McGlockton exits the store, confronts Drejka and shoves him to the ground.
Drejka, who is white, pulls out a handgun and shoots McGlockton, 28, an unarmed black man, in the chest as McGlockton appears to back away. McGlockton was more than 10 feet away when Drejka fired, a detective wrote in a criminal complaint.
After being shot, McGlockton runs back into the store and collapses in front of 5-year-old Markeis Jr. He died later at a hospital.
Drejka says he shot McGlockton in self-defense.
An autopsy report obtained by CNN on Tuesday shows the bullet entered on the left side of McGlockton’s chest, penetrating tissue, two ribs, the lower lobes of both lungs and the left ventricle of the heart, before coming to a stop near his right armpit.
“The 13-inch wound track was from (slight) front to back, left to right and slightly upward,” the report said.
Law complicates charges
Drejka, who was released Monday, had been in jail since August 13, the day Pinellas and Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe overruled the sheriff and decided to charge the 48-year-old in McGlockton’s fatal shooting.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri had declined to charge Drejka, citing the “stand your ground” law. The sheriff characterized McGlockton’s shove as a “violent push” and said Drejka thought he was going to be attacked again after he was “slammed to the ground.”
“Markeis wouldn’t be dead if Markeis didn’t slam this guy to the ground,” Gualtieri said at the time.
In an interview with St. Petersburg’s WTSP earlier this month, Drejka said he feared for his life during the altercation and believes his actions were protected by the “stand your ground” law. He also said he “didn’t know it was a shove.”
“It felt like I was tackled or someone hit me from behind with something. I left my feet and slid along the ground,” Drejka told the station.
Drejka first confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend because she was parked in a handicapped spot.
In the WTSP interview, he said that people misusing handicapped parking spaces had “always touched a nerve with me” because his former high school sweetheart and his mother-in-law are disabled.
According to the sheriff’s office’s investigative file, numerous witnesses saw Drejka pull the trigger. At least two of them saw Drejka screaming at Jacobs before McGlockton confronted him.
“The white guy got my attention because he was screaming at the black girl so loudly, it took me off focus,” Brittny Hicks of St. Petersburg told investigators.
Hicks said she walked out of the store just before McGlockton. Fearing there would be more gunfire, she and a friend left the scene but later returned to talk to police.
Robert Castelli told police he was about 20 feet away when McGlockton was shot. Prior to the shooting, he said, Drejka was pacing back and forth by Jacobs’ car, yelling at the woman.
“It’s a handicap spot. Some of my family members are handicap. You shouldn’t be parked there,” he recalled Drejka saying, according to the file.
Castelli went inside the store and asked the clerk to intervene, which McGlockton overheard before going outside, he said.
After the shooting, Castelli said, Jacobs cried and yelled at Drejka, “You shot my baby. You shot him,” to which Drejka responded, “He ran up on me. What’d you expect?”
Also in the file is an interview with Drejka’s wife, Cara Brooks, who told police Drejka called her shortly after the shooting. She asked him if he was OK.
“I’m fine,” he replied.
“What about the guy you shot?” she asked.
It sounded like Drejka said, “As far as I know, he’s still breathing,” she said. A police officer then told Drejka to get off the phone, she said.
Several people have said they’ve encountered an angry Drejka in traffic encounters. In two incidents, witnesses say he pulled a gun. Richard Kelly told a Pinellas County detective that Drejka confronted him over a handicapped parking space at the same Circle A Food Store where Drejka shot McGlockton.
When Drejka told Kelly he was going to shoot him and returned to his car and began rummaging through his console, Kelly drove away, he told police. Drejka later called Kelly’s employer at a septic tank company and told him he was lucky he hadn’t blow Kelly’s head off, the employer said, according to court records.
Drejka apologized to McGlockton’s family during the WTSP interview. The family has said Drejka killed McGlockton in cold blood and there is no way the shooting was justified.
McGlockton’s father said his son was only standing up for his family.
“If you push a man down to the ground, that man does not deserve to be shot. Stand up and fight with your fists,” Michael McGlockton said before Drejka was charged.