CLEARWATER — A judge is set to hear arguments Friday over whether prosecutors can use prior confrontations involving road rage and gun threats in their case against Clearwater parking lot shooter Michael Drejka.
One encounter occurred last spring at the same Sunset Point Road convenience store where Drejka shot and killed 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton on July 19, according to a court document filed in October.
Like the McGlockton shooting, it started when Drejka confronted a driver over why he had parked in a handicap-reserved parking space without a placard, according to the driver's account. Drejka, who is white, used a racial slur against the driver, a black man, then threatened to shoot him.
The other incident, from January 2012, involved a dispute between Drejka and an 18-year-old motorist who stopped in front of him at a yellow light, according to a court document from November. Drejka honked at the man, then flashed a black handgun out the driver's side window, the document says. The incident was also documented in a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office report. Drejka told a deputy he yelled and honked but denied he pulled a gun, according to the report.
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Drejka's defense team asked the judge to exclude both incidents, arguing in a motion that they're irrelevant and violate Drejka's due process rights. The defense also argued that the state didn't adequately prove Drejka was responsible for them.
The 1:30 p.m. hearing promises significant developments in a case that has drawn national attention. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone will decide whether the incidents are admissible. Drejka, 48, is scheduled to stand trial on a manslaughter charge in August.
The case set off a sweeping debate about self-defense. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to arrest Drejka, saying Drejka's actions fell within the bounds of Florida's divisive stand your ground law.
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Drejka told detectives he pulled the trigger in self-defense after McGlockton, who was black, shoved him to the ground as Drejka was arguing with McGlockton's girlfriend about why she had parked in a handicap space. Surveillance cameras at the Circle A Food Store captured the encounter.
Days before Drejka's Aug. 13 arrest, the Tampa Bay Times reported that he was accused as the aggressor in four incidents, including the two cited by prosecutors. The other two, documented in police reports, involved accusations that Drejka drove aggressively and showed a gun, which he denied at the time to a Largo police officer.
Contact Kathryn Varn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.