Trial starts in fa­tal shoot­ing over park­ing spot at Fla. store

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD -

CLEARWATER, Fla. — A prose­cu­tor told ju­rors Wed­nes­day that a white Florida man who fa­tally shot an un­armed black man dur­ing a dis­pute over a park­ing space had ini­ti­ated a sim­i­lar con­fronta­tion just months be­fore, while his de­fense at­tor­ney said the shoot­ing was in self-de­fense.

Prose­cu­tor Fred Schaub said dur­ing open­ing state­ments of Michael Dre­jka’s man­slaugh­ter trial in Clearwater that five months be­fore he fa­tally shot Markeis McGlock­ton in July 2018, the de­fen­dant had threat­ened an­other driver about park­ing in a hand­i­capped park­ing spot at the same con­ve­nience store. That en­counter, while heated, didn’t re­sult in a phys­i­cal al­ter­ca­tion.

Five months later, Dre­jka con­fronted McGlock­ton’s girl­friend for park­ing in a hand­i­capped space. Con­ve­nience store video recorded McGlock­ton leav­ing the store and shov­ing Dre­jka to the ground. Sec­onds later, Dre­jka pulled out a hand­gun and shot McGlock­ton, 28, as he backed away.

McGlock­ton ran in­side the store, where he col­lapsed and died.

“He took the life of an­other hu­man be­ing un­law­fully with­out any le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and that’s what we’re going to prove to you dur­ing the course of this trial,” Schaub said.

De­fense at­tor­ney Bryant Ca­mareno called the death of McGlock­ton, a fa­ther of three chil­dren, un­for­tu­nate. But the shoot­ing was ex­cus­able be­cause Dre­jka felt threat­ened by McGlock­ton’s size and the shove took him by sur­prise, the de­fense at­tor­ney said.

“Shock, con­fu­sion there was con­fu­sion on the part of Mr. Dre­jka. He had no idea what hap­pened to him,” Ca­mareno said. “The dan­ger may not have been ac­tual. In his state of mind, it’s the ap­pear­ance of dan­ger that caused him to act.”

McGlock­ton’s girl­friend, Brit­tany Ja­cobs, tes­ti­fied that the fam­ily had stopped by the store for snacks and pulled into a hand­i­capped spot. The car was still run­ning as Ja­cobs and two chil­dren waited for McGloc­ton and his older son to re­turn from the store.

She said Dre­jka started walk­ing around her car, stopped in the front, and then started point­ing and yelling at her for park­ing in a hand­i­capped spot. She said she even­tu­ally cracked the win­dow to hear what he was say­ing and a scream­ing match en­sued. “I said, ‘Do you want me to go get my man,’ and he said, ‘Yes, if he wants to fight,’ ” Ja­cobs tes­ti­fied.

An­other cus­tomer, Robert Castelli, tes­ti­fied that he heard thear­gu­ment be­tween Dre­jka and Ja­cobs, and that the scream­ing had in­ten­si­fied as he en­tered the store. Castelli said he was con­cerned for the woman’s safety. “I told the clerk there’s an al­ter­ca­tion out­side. You might want to get in­volved.”

Ja­cobs and Castelli tes­ti­fied that McGlock­ton was back­ing up af­ter shov­ing Dre­jka. Both said McGlock­ton did not take a step to­ward Dre­jka as he was on the ground af­ter be­ing shoved.

McGlock­ton’s au­topsy showed he had the drug ec­stasy in his system, and the de­fense at­tor­ney sug­gested that could have led him to act im­pul­sively.

Both sides promised ju­rors they would watch the sur­veil­lance video many times dur­ing the trial, and Ca­mareno played it for them twice dur­ing open­ing state­ments.

“We want you to look at video in real time,” Ca­mareno said. “We don’t want you to look at it in slow mo­tion be­cause life doesn’t hap­pen in slow mo­tion.”

The first wit­ness pros­e­cu­tors called was the man Dre­jka had con­fronted about park­ing in a hand­i­capped spot at the same con­ve­nience store in Fe­bru­ary 2018. Richard Kelly, who works at a sep­tic com­pany, tes­ti­fied that Dre­jka threat­ened him, but he didn’t bran­dish any weapon. Dre­jka told him a rel­a­tive is hand­i­capped. The ar­gu­ment deesca­lated when the con­ve­nience store owner came out­side and Kelly left.

It’s a per­sonal is­sue for Mr. Dre­jka when some­one parks in a hand­i­cap spot if they’re not hand­i­capped, Ca­mareno told ju­rors.

Dre­jka’s trial is ex­pected to last two to three weeks.

SCOTT KEELER/TAMPA BAY TIMES 2018

Michael Dre­jka, right, is ac­cused of fa­tally shoot­ing an un­armed black man July 2018 in a Florida park­ing lot.

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