Michael Drejka’s manslaughter trial began in Clearwater, Florida, on Wednesday
In 2018 Drejka, 49, who is white was caught by surveillance camera as he shot and killed Markeis McGlockton, 28, in a food store parking lot
McGlockton’s girlfriend had parked in a handicap space and was sitting in the vehicle with her two little children when Drejka confronted her about it
McGlockton emerged from the store, pushed him over and Drejka shot him in the chest as he was backing away
He was not arrested by police because he invoked Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, claiming self-defense
Prosecutors however charged him with manslaughter, saying there was no credible threat to his life
The video of the incident went viral and sparked a national debate on the law
At trial witnesses said the defendant seemed rather proud of shooting the unarmed black man dead in Stand Your Ground row over a parking spot and told eyewitnesses ‘don’t worry, it’s all on camera’
Vigilante: Michael Drejka, is shown in court in Clearwater, Florida, on Wednesday, the first day of his manslaughter trial in the killing of an unarmed man during a parking lot altercation – The court heard he’d threatened to shoot another African American man in similar circumstances, four months earlier
A 49-year-old Clearwater man on trial for manslaughter for fatally shooting an unarmed black man over a handicapped parking space seemed ‘proud’ afterwards and told witnesses: ‘Don’t worry, it’s all on camera,’ his trial heard on Wednesday.
Michael Drejka, who is white, shot and killed Markeis McGlockton, 28, in July 2018 after confronting McGlockton’s girlfriend for parking in a handicapped parking spot outside a store in Clearwater, Florida.
She was in their car with her two young children. When McGlockton ran back into the parking lot, he pushed Drejka onto the ground.
Drejka pulled out his gun and shot him in the chest as he backed away from him. The entire incident was caught on surveillance camera footage.
Drejka – who says the footage is unreliable – was not arrested by police at the scene because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law which makes it legal for citizens to defend themselves if they fear their lives are in danger.
Prosecutors charged him, however, with manslaughter and the trial began on Wednesday after more than a year of controversy.
The first witness called to the stand was Rich Kelly, a different African American man who told the court that defendant had threatened to shoot him for parking in a handicapped spot four months before he shot McGlockton.
Others included Vicki Conrad, a witness who watched the shooting and aftermath unfold.
She said Drejka was unshaken and seemed happy with what he had done.
Police deputies who responded were also called as witnesses. They testified that he was ‘calm and collected’ after the shooting.
Markeis McGlockton, [photo], was shot and killed by Drejka, in July 2018 in an argument over a parking spot outside a food store in Clearwater, Florida
Ten witnesses were called throughout Wednesday, the first day of the trial.
Rich Kelly recalled how in February 2018, he had parked in the same handicapped spot outside the Circle A food store where McGlockton died when he found Drejka taking photographs of his truck.
He confronted Drejka and, he said on Wednesday, Drejka told him he would have shot him if he’d had a gun.
Drejka is not disabled and had no one with him on either occasion but he has said in the past that he gets upset when he sees people misusing handicapped spaces because his mother-in-law is disabled as was a former high school sweetheart who is now deceased.
Kelly, who works nearby, chose not to report the incident to police.
Drejka later called his boss, John Tyler, who also testified on Wednesday, to complain about him using the parking spot.
Tyler testified that Drejka also told him that he would have shot Kelly.
Brittany Jacobs, Kelly’s girlfriend, also testified.
She said she was frightened with Drejka approached her vehicle, with her children inside, to confront her about parking.
‘I just wanted this man to leave me and my babies alone,’ she said.
Drejka’s lawyers argued that he felt he was in danger and that McGlockton had ecstasy in his system at the time of the incident.
The moment Michael Drejka shot and killed unarmed Markeis McGlockton, a black man after he had pushed him to the ground was caught by surveillance cameras
He’s a nosy Parker: Kelly’s boss John Tyler (left) testified that Drejka called him and said he had threatened to shoot Kelly for parking in the same handicapped spot. The store owner [right], who also testified and said Drejka was ‘nosy’
‘What happened here was unfortunate.
‘The use of deadly force was justifiable because Michael Drejka reasonably believed that force was necessary,’ his lawyer, Bryant Camareno, told the courtroom.
Defense invoked the 21 foot rule – a term used by law enforcement in reference to the widely held notion that by the time an officer has identified a threat, reached for their weapon and drawn it a suspect could have come 21 feet closer to them, saying he acted quickly and had no time to think about race.
Camareno argued however that even if there was no real danger, if the jury believes that Drejka believed there was a legitimate danger, they should find him not guilty.
‘It is Mr. Drejka’s perception of danger that you as jurors need to focus on,’ Camareno said.
Other witnesses called were the owner of the store where the shooting took place who described Drejka as a ‘nosy’ person.
The sheriff who responded to the 911 call about it also testified.