More than two months have passed since Michael Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton in the parking lot of a convenience store.
While developments in the headline-grabbing case have slowed to a trickle as it crawls through the court system, the Tampa Bay Times obtained more than 400 pages of investigative documents from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
The interview transcripts and reports from deputies shed light on Drejka’s thinking in the seconds before the shooting, which began with an argument with McGlockton’s girlfriend over a handicap-reserved parking space. They also paint a fuller picture of a case that disturbed the community, sparked concerns of racial injustice and reignited a debate over Florida’s controversial stand your ground law after authorities cited it in not initially arresting Drejka.
Here are five new details from the documents:
1. Drejka: McGlockton ‘made his step towards me, and that was that.’
A roughly 70-page transcript of Drejka’s interview with detectives provides the most insight yet into how he perceived the moments leading up to the shooting.
Drejka, facing a manslaughter charge, said that during the argument McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs asked if she needed to get her boyfriend. Drejka responded, "are we going to fight?’’
Soon after, McGlockton, 28, came out of the store and shoved Drejka to the ground.
"I was literally blindsided … and tackled to the ground," he said. (A bystander also used "blindsided" to describe how Drejka approached McGlockton.)
Drejka, 48, landed on his right side, his wrist caught under a gun he kept in a holster. He sat up and pulled out the gun. It took one step by McGlockton for Drejka to pull the trigger, he told detectives. He acknowledged that if McGlockton had retreated, or even stayed still, he wouldn’t have used his gun.
"He made his step towards me, and that was that," he said.
Early in the interview, Drejka said he believed McGlockton was going to kick or get on top of him after the shove. Later, he told detectives he thought McGlockton was "gonna finish what the hell he just started." When asked to elaborate, he said, "No clue. Come after me again. That’s about it," then adds, "What he would have done is just pure conjecture."
Drejka didn’t see much of McGlockton from his vantage point on the ground. He told detectives he thought McGlockton was of medium height. He saw McGlockton’s legs but couldn’t see his hands or face.
Drejka used police and military terms to describe some of his conduct, although he told investigators he has never worked in those fields. His father, however, is a former cop, he said, and they used to train together.
At one point, he said he was acting under the 21-foot rule, a self-defense training tactic, and said later he was trying to "neutralize the immediate threat" when he fired the single shot.
"And then that’s it," he said. "No reason to go overboard."
2. Detectives raise the question on everyone’s mind.
More than once, detectives ask Drejka why he didn’t call law enforcement to report that someone had illegally parked in a handicap-reserved parking space.
"Wouldn’t you think it would be better instead of putting yourself in that type of circumstance that could escalate?" Det. George Moffett said.
Drejka said he worried the driver would leave by the time police arrived — "They always do," he said.
"When I just say something to a person about being parked there,’’ he said, "I don’t expect it to go where it went."
Another detective, Richard Redman, asked Drejka about what others may think about him approaching their cars.
"Does it ever go through your mind … that they might not take that right? That this might go sideways a little bit?"
"Um, well, sure," Drejka said. "But that’s why I take precautions as well."
"Like what? What kind of precautions?" the detective asked.
"Well, I’m a very careful person," Drejka said, "and I have a permit."
3. Witnesses: Drejka seemed ‘proud’ and ‘angry’ after shooting.
The documents include interviews with several witnesses.
Their accounts are mostly consistent with what we know about the shooting so far and shed light on Drejka’s conduct afterward.
One bystander, Robert Castelly, told detectives Drejka, who did not call 911, seemed more angry than remorseful.
"He wasn’t really upset that it happened," he said. "He was just like, ‘Yeah the guy got what he deserved’ was like his attitude."
He heard Drejka muttering something to the effect of, "I just shot someone. What’d you think was gonna happen? He shouldn’t have ran up on me." Castelly said he ducked down to call 911. He said he didn’t want Drejka to see him on the phone, worried about how he’d react.
Vicki Conrad, who helped Jacobs, put pressure on McGlockton’s wound inside the store, encountered Drejka as she went outside to check on Jacobs’ two young children in the car. She heard him say, "They got it all on tape."
She described his demeanor as "proud."
Two witnesses added that they felt someone needed to intervene in the argument between Drejka and Jacobs because it was so heated. One, Latoya Wigfals, broke with other witnesses and said Drejka reached into Jacobs’ car, although the surveillance video doesn’t appear to show that.
Castelly told detectives he thought about jumping in himself. Instead, he went inside and told the store clerk. McGlockton, in the store with his 5-year-old son, overheard him and went outside.
"I’m glad I didn’t get involved," Castelly said. "I mean, because, you know, you see a guy yelling at lady sitting in a car, the first thing you think is maybe I gotta back this guy off, maybe the situation’s … getting out of control. I’m glad I didn’t get involved ... because I had no idea that guy was packing."
4. Witness says Drejka use ‘racial black words’.
Protesters and activists have pointed to racial injustice in the case, saying it’s another example of a white person shooting an unarmed black man.
While Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has said there’s no evidence that race was a factor, and Drejka said in a recent interview from jail with WTSP Channel 10 that he’s not a racist, Wigfals said she heard Drejka call Jacobs a "black b----."
"He was, like, using racial black words," she said.
No other witnesses, including Jacobs, told investigators they heard racist language. In an interview this week, Gualtieri said Wigfals had several inconsistencies in her statement. Wigfals said this week that she was "pretty sure" Drejka called her that.
5. Odds and ends: Gunshot wound location, Drejka’s injuries, origins of gun
Authorities have said Drejka shot McGlockton in the chest, while Jacobs said it was on the left side of his abdomen. McGlockton’s autopsy has not yet been released, but the documents include a report from a detective describing the location of the gunshot wound as 2 inches below his left nipple.
Drejka’s interview transcript also has more details about his injuries from the shove. He told detectives the side he fell on hurt and he wasn’t sure if he hit his head. Forensic technicians also documented a tear in his shirt.
Drejka used a .40-caliber Glock handgun. A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives report tracing where the gun came from was mostly redacted, aside from this note from a detective:
"Based on my findings, it is undetermined how Michael Drejka came in possession of the listed firearm."
TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: PARKING LOT SHOOTING
Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or [email protected] Follow @kathrynvarn.