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DAN (4:59 p.m.)
The last witness for today is Corey Nerzing. He’s a former crime lab analyst with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He is young, wears a conservative suit and glasses. He says he left FDLE for personal reasons.
He tells the jury how he goes about analyzing guns and spent bullets and shell casings. He tells how he uses a comparison microscope to look for distinctive scratches and marks that can identify whether a particular bullet was fired from a particular gun.
He says he compared the spent shell casing from the Circle A Food Mart with the gun deputies seized from Drejka’s car. He determined the bullet shell casing was fired from that gun. He was not able to make a conclusive determination about the bullet itself and whether it came out of the same weapon.
His testimony is quick.
The judge lets the jury go from its first day on the job. They’ll be back tomorrow at 8:45 a.m.
DAN (4:26 p.m.)
After a short break, Judge Bulone returns to the bench. He says the courthouse deputies have informed him that a juror overheard the media saying the “Drejka trial is starting today and there will be multiple witnesses.”
Jurors aren’t supposed to be exposed to media coverage of the case, and they’re supposed to alert the deputies if they are. But the judge says this particular exposure seems benign.
The lawyers agree there is no prejudice resulting from what was overheard. Indeed, the Drejka trial did start today and there are multiple witnesses.
The jury re-enters the courtroom. We’re moving on to the testimony of Rhonda Klein. She collected the spent bullet shell casing from the shooting scene. Prosecutor Rosenwasser shows Klein a box and she identifies the shell casing inside as the one she collected.
The prosecutor shows her a set of photos that depict the inside of the Circle A store. Klein identifies the area where McGlockton collapsed. It is marked with blood.
Klein also tells the jury she took measurements of the parking lot. She also later took measurements of an interview room, where investigators interrogated Drejka.
This could come into play later, if they play a recording of Drejka’s interview. In the video recording (watch here), Drejka got on the floor to demonstrate where he was in comparison to McGlockton.
DAN (3:44 p.m.)
Next witness is Jennifer Hall. She’s a forensic science specialist with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
She collected the gun from Drejka’s car. It was on the center console inside his car.
Prosecutor Rosenwasser shows her the gun and she identifies it as the same one she collected. She holds it up so the jury can see.
Her testimony is brief.
As she leaves the witness stand, the state calls Rhonda Klein, another forensic technician.
DAN (3:35 p.m.)
The next witness is Deputy Robert Smyth, also with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. He now works as a bailiff in the courthouse. Very easy for him to get here today.
He was a patrol deputy back when the shooting occurred.
On the day of the shooting, he arrived at the Circle A store and saw Drejka seated on a curb. He helped put him in handcuffs and search him.
In the search, he found a magazine for a Glock .40-caliber handgun. There were 11 rounds in the magazine, plus one loose in Drejka’s pocket.
The deputy identifies the items in court, along with a holster that was seized from Drejka.
On cross examination, defense attorney William Flores asks about Drejka’s demeanor upon Smyth’s arrival. He was “calm and cooperative.”
The deputy says he learned Drejka had a concealed weapons permit.
Smyth is finished. Next is Jennifer Hall, a Sheriff’s Office forensic science specialist.
DAN (3:20 p.m.)
The next witness is Sgt. Eric Forcade with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. He was a patrol supervisor on the day of the shooting. It was marked as a “high-priority call.”
He was the first supervisor on scene.
When he arrived, Forcade saw a deputy telling Drejka to put his hands up. Drejka was sitting on the ground, his elbows resting on his knees as he complied.
Forcade put him in handcuffs. Deputies then searched Drejka.
Rosewasser asks Forcade about the handicap-reserved sign where McGlockton’s car was parked. The sign does not have the wheelchair symbol or the specific language required by state law, Forcade says.
Drejka’s car was not in a marked parking spot, Forcade says. He was parked in the middle of the lot.
Forcade talks about the steps taken to protect the crime scene. Shortly after their arrival, deputies located the bullet shell casing. Forcade put a Mountain Dew can beside the casing to mark it before another deputy put a protective cover over it.
Drejka seemed compliant. They asked him where the gun was. It was inside Drejka’s car.
DAN AND KATHRYN (2:56 p.m.)
On cross examination, defense attorney John Trevena asks Conrad for more details about what she observed. He asks why she never said in a deposition that Drejka was the louder of the two people arguing. She says she doesn’t think she was asked.
Asked about Drejka’s behavior after the shooting, Conrad says, “He just seemed very matter-of-fact.”
“I looked out the door and said, 'Is it okay if I come out?’ And he just seemed very calm.”
She goes on to say, “There was a man dying, and a child there … I was very distraught.”
Trevena harps on the fact that Jacobs moved her car from the handicap-reserved spot to the front of the store. He asks Conrad if she thinks that was odd. She says it really didn’t cross her mind.
Earlier, Jacobs said in her testimony that she moved the car because her kids were inside and she wanted to keep an eye on them while she she went in the store to help McGlockton.
Trevena asks Conrad about her initial statement to investigators in which she said Drejka was “babbling.” Now in court, she says, “He was very clear.”
“If he was unclear, I wouldn’t have gone out of the store,” Conrad says. Later, she clarifies that her definition of babbling is “going on and on.”
Trevena asks if he was being threatening, if he said anything threatening.
“I would have been threatened,” she said.
Trevena says that isn’t what he asked. Was he threatening?
“He was being intimidating,” Conrad says.
But you never heard him make any verbal threatening statements? No, she says.
Conrad’s testimony is finished. Up next is Pinellas Sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Forcade, who responded to the convenience store that day.
DAN (2:43 p.m.)
Vicki Conrad is the next witness. She owns an inn on Sunset Point Road. She lives near the Circle A store and stops by often.
She was there on July 19, 2018. She was going to pick up a bottle of wine.
When she arrived, she noticed a man and a woman arguing. The woman was in a car, the man was outside it. Their argument was loud enough for her to hear. The man was the louder of the two.
“He was authoritative. Argumentative.”
She later learned the woman was Britany Jacobs. She didn’t know the man, but later learned he was Michael Drejka.
Conrad went into the store. Someone else who was coming in the door at the same time told the owner there was an argument in the parking lot.
Conrad says she went to the back section where the wine is. There was a man and a child at the front counter.
Later, she heard Britany yelling, “Help me! Help me! Help us!”
Conrad says she saw the aftermath of the shooting. She grabbed a T-shirt from the store and helped Jacobs press on McGlockton’s wound.
Jacobs asked Conrad to go outside and check on her kids. She saw Drejka. He mentioned everything was fine, mentioned that everything was on video.
“He stated everything very calmly, almost proud," Conrad says.
Conrad later got the kids together and brought them to their mother.
The state has no more questions. Drejka attorney John Trevena is conducting a cross-examination.
KATHRYN (2:15 p.m.)
The surveillance video returns. Camareno shows a still from the video. It shows the moment right before the shooting.
Camareno asks why Castelli was still outside.
“I thought I was going to be breaking up a fight,” Castelli says.
Camareno’s last question: Did you hear him (Drejka) say something about his own family member being handicap?
Yes, Castelli says.
Camareno takes his seat. Rosenwasser is back up with a few more questions. More nitpicking the deposition.
Then, Rosenwasser says to Castelli, you said you thought you were going to have to break up a fight.
“Did you have to actually break up a fight?” he asks.
No, Castelli says.
“Once I saw a gun, I got out of the way,” Castelli says.
No more questions from either side.
Next up is Vicki Conrad, the bystander who helped Jacobs after McGlockton was shot.
But first, a 10-minute recess.
KATHRYN (2:05 p.m.)
Camareno asks Castelli if he ever clarified what he said in the deposition. He did, but several months later.
Now Camareno is going into how Drejka was acting after the shooting.
Do you know Drejka? Camareno asks. No.
Do you have any medical training? No.
He turns to the moment when Castelli first pulled up to the store. He asks if Castelli hears Jacobs say, “Mind your own effing business.”
“To that effect,” Castelli says. “I couldn’t hear exactly” what they were saying.
Camareno pulls out a transcript of Castelli’s deposition.
“Did you or did you not hear Ms. Jacobs say to Mr. Drejka, ‘Mind your own effing business.’”
“Can I explain?” Castelli asks.
First, yes or no, Camareno says.
Yes, Castelli says. He says again that this was his impression of the conversation. He couldn’t tell exactly what they were saying.
Camareno asks if he heard Drejka make any threats.
“He was in a threatening manner, pointing towards the car,” Castelli says. “I would consider that threatening.”
But no, he didn’t hear anything threatening.
KATHRYN (1:58 p.m.)
We’re back. Rosenwasser turns to Castelli’s deposition, or the interview he did with the attorneys in the case. There was an error in it, right? Yes, Castelli says.
“This one statement in the report saying ‘I’m gonna F you up,’” Castelli says. “That was my interpretation because I had said it so many times … I never actually heard that.”
This debunks part of the defense team’s opening argument. If you recall from earlier in the blog, Camareno referenced the “F you up”:
You have the threat, “My man is going to F you up,” Camareno says. You have Britany getting out the car. You have the violent shove. It all happens in three to four seconds, Camareno says, and Drejka is wondering what’s going to happen to him.
Rosenwasser finishes up with his questions. Camareno is up now cross-examining. He doesn’t get very far before there is another bench conference.
KATHRYN (1:52 p.m.)
Castelli says he visited the Circle A after dropping off food for his girlfriend in Palm Harbor.
“When I pulled up, I heard screaming. I saw a man basically yelling at a car, and it just caught my attention,” he says.
He identifies the man as Drejka.
When you first heard the yelling, was it one person or two?
One, just Drejka, Castelli says. He was pointing at the window.
Castelli gets out of his car and notices there was a black woman in the car. Rosenwasser asks if Castelli was concerned for her. Yes, Castelli says. It had become a “screaming match.”
“He was shouting very loud, and I could tell he was very upset … Obviously it’s a male yelling at a female so I was concerned.”
He told the cashier an altercation was going on outside. He could hear them both yelling at this point. McGlockton was at the counter.
“He put his things on the counter, and then I saw him walk out of the store,” Castelli says.
Earlier, he says, he heard Jacobs say to Drejka, “Wait ‘til my man comes. He’s going to handle it.”
Did McGlockton say anything to Drejka before he pushed Drejka? No.
Once McGlockton pushed him, did anyone say anything to anybody? No.
After the defendant is on the ground, what happens next? He rolled on his side and pulled his gun out.
Did he say anything to indicate he was injured? No. Did he have any difficulty pulling out his firearm? No.
“Very smooth,” Castelli says.
When you saw the firearm come out, what did you do? I took two steps to my right and got in between two cars. But he still had a clear view of what was happening, Castelli says.
What did McGlockton do? Rosenwasser asks.
“Backed up,” Castelli says, then “the car was behind him, so … he couldn’t go any further back.”
Did you see him get shot? Yes. Then what’d he do?
“He held the wound and ran into the store and collapsed,” Castelli says.
And what did you do? Kept my eye on the shooter and moved to the side of the building to call 911, Castelli says.
Did the defendant seem dazed? Confused? Any difficulty walking around? No, no, no.
“I saw him get up calmly and put the gun in his truck,” Castelli says.
Then what’d he do?
People were pulling up to the store and he tells them not to come in because he had just shot someone, Castelli says. He was also pacing around talking to himself, saying things like, “He shouldn’t have pushed me down. What’d he think was going to happen?”
“He was visibly irritated,” Castelli says.
Drejka attorney Camareno calls for another bench conference.
KATHRYN AND DAN (1:35 p.m.)
The cross-examination with Coy is continuing.
You said you wanted to put your hands on him, right? Coy asks.
Jacobs says yes.
That’s not what a scared person would do is it?
I just wanted him to get away from me and my babies, Jacobs says.
Last question from Coy: “Did you know that Markeis was on drugs at that time?”
“No,” Jacobs says.
And the last word from Jacobs, after a question from prosecutor Rosenwasser:
“I just wanted him to leave me and my babies alone. And if anything was going to happen, it was going to happen outside the car, not inside the car with my babies.”
Next up is Robert Castelli, a witness from the parking lot.
KATHRYN (1:25 p.m.)
Defense attorney Coy is reiterating the chronology with Jacobs. The the windows were up at first (yes), Drejka pulls up after McGlockton goes into the store (yes) and Drejka was wearing sunglasses (yes).
Coy asks why Jacobs engaged with Drejka instead of moving her car.
“You both are going at it?”
“And to be quite frank, he should have minded his business, and that’s how you felt?”
Coy is harping on why Jacobs got out of the car if she was scared. Jacobs says she just wanted him to leave her alone.
Of the shove, Coy asks, “It wasn’t a tap, correct?”
“It was a push,” Jacobs says.
And then McGlockton took a step forward? No, Jacobs says, she doesn’t recall that.
Drejka “was blindsided, correct?”
“Yes,” Jacobs says.
“Because Mr. Drejka was focused solely on you, is that correct?”
Now Coy is honing in on the word “retreat” that Jacobs used.
“You never used the word ‘retreat’ in your statements to law enforcement, correct?”
Jacobs says she doesn’t remember but she said they were moving back. (Retreat is a word prosecutors have used to describe what McGlockton did after Drejka fired the shot.)
KATHRYN (1:15 p.m.)
Jacobs is continuing to testify.
Once the gun came out, what did you do? I retreated off to the left.
Did you see what McGlockton was doing? He was backing up, and he couldn’t back up any further because the car was in the way.
Did McGlockton say anything? No. He was quiet.
Once the shot was fired, Jacobs says, she saw Markeis grab his side and go into the store.
Then what happens? Jacobs says she rolls her window back up, makes sure her kids are okay and heads into the store.
In the store, she said, “He’s down there fighting for his life. So I grabbed a T-shirt and put it toward his wound to stop the bleeding.”
Is Markeis Jr. still in the store? Yes.
She goes back outside, she says, to check on her children in the car.
“I was worried about my kids because the armed man was still there,” she says.
She went to the car, pulled it up to the front of the store, turned the air conditioning on and locked the car. She moved the car, she says, so she could keep an eye on her kids and McGlockton at the same time.
The state has no further questions.
Drejka attorney Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy is beginning cross-examination.
DAN AND KATHRYN (1:10 p.m.)
The state calls Britany Jacobs. She was Markeis McGlockton’s girlfriend and argued with Drejka right before the shooting.
Jacobs tells the jury she worked as a certified nursing assistant back in July 2018. She worked with dementia patients.
She no longer works there. These days, she’s taking care of her and McGlockton’s four children, ages 7 months to 6 years old.
Of McGlockton, she says: “He was my soul mate and my partner.” They met through a mutual friend in high school.
McGlockton was a cashier at 7-Eleven. He worked the night shift and took care of the kids during the day.
Jacobs was pregnant in July 2018, but she says she did not know it yet.
McGlockton picked her up from work on July 19. They switched seats and she drove to the Circle A store, a familiar spot for their family. She says they’ve been going there for years.
Prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser asks if she ever saw people park in the handicap-reserved spot.
“Yes, all the time,” she says.
Jacobs, 26 now, says she was in the car with her two younger kids. McGlockton went into the store with their older child, Markeis Jr., who was 5 at the time.
Rosenwasser asks how long they planned on staying.
“Just a quick second. Just in and out,” Jacobs says.
Jacobs starts talking about when Drejka approached the car. She watched as he walked around the car and pointed.
“Were you concerned?” Rosenwasser asks.
“Yes, I was scared ... I didn’t know who this strange, suspicious man was,” she says.
At one point, she cracks her window. Drejka tells her she parked in a handicap-reserved spot.
“I said, ‘Yes, I am aware,’” Jacobs says. “'When my family returns to the car, I will leave.'”
Of his demeanor, she says, “He was more angry and aggressive ... He was yelling and pointing and telling me where I should park.”
Did you raise your voice at some point? Yes.
Why? “I wanted this man to just leave me alone, to leave me and my babies alone.”
Did he leave you alone? No. “He just kept arguing with me.”
Was he doing anything with his hands? Yes. What was he doing with his hands? Pointing.
After a certain point, Jacobs says, she wanted to push him away. But she never vocalized that, she says. She never threatened him and she never got out of the car.
“I said, ‘Do you want me to get my man?' I said that as in maybe he’ll leave me alone, maybe he’ll back off if he knows I have somebody with me. … “He said, ‘Yes, if you want him to fight.’”
“So the person who brought up fight first was the defendant?” Rosenwasser says.
“Correct,” Jacobs says.
The argument got loud, she says. Everyone was watching.
Then McGlockton comes out of the store. At the car, Drejka is still pointing, Jacobs says. She sees McGlockton coming down the sidewalk, and Jacobs gets out of the car. She says she didn’t know what was going to happen, and whatever was going to happen should happen outside the car, away from her children.
Did Markeis say anything to the defendant? “Yes … ‘Get away from my girl.’”
Then he pushed Drejka, Jacobs says.
KATHRYN (12:49 p.m.)
We’re back from lunch. Prosecutor Fred Schaub tells Judge Bulone the next witness is Britany Jacobs, McGlockton’s girlfriend.
Noon update: An earlier argument at the parking lot
Richard Kelly visits the Circle A convenience store in Clearwater several times a week. A tanker truck driver, he sometimes stops at the end of his work day to grab a drink.
He did that one hot day in February 2018. In the front lot, he parked in a handicap-reserved spot.
When he came out, a man was taking pictures of the truck. Kelly asked what the man was doing and an argument ensued. Profanity flew. Then came a threat.
“I should shoot you, kill you,” the man said.
The man was Michael Drejka, a jury was told Wednesday. Five months after their dispute, Drejka would shoot and kill a different man during an argument outside the same store, over the same parking spot.
Kelly was the first witness to testify Wednesday in Drejka’s manslaughter trial for the July 19, 2018, shooting of Markeis McGlockton.
Prosecutors introduced Kelly’s testimony to suggest to a jury that Drejka had a motive and opportunity to commit the crime — and that it was not a case of self-defense, as the defendant’s lawyers are expected to argue.
“He took the life of another human being without any legal justification,” Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub said in opening statements.
Kelly told the jury he shrugged off the February incident with Drejka. But later, he learned that Drejka had phoned his boss.
John Tyler, the owner of AA Cut Rate Septic, testified that Drejka called him to complain about Kelly parking in the handicapped spot. Drejka told him he was lucky.
“He said, ‘If I had a gun, I could have shot him,’” Tyler testified.
Drejka also visited the store often. The store owner, Abdalla Salous, told the jury Drejka often came in to purchase Monster energy drinks.
It was his store’s surveillance system that recorded video of the July 19 shooting of McGlockton. The jury saw that video for the first time Wednesday.
It shows Drejka arguing with Britany Jacobs, McGlockton’s girlfriend, who is inside a car parked in the handicapped spot.
In the span of 11 seconds, McGlockton comes out of the store and shoves Drejka to the ground. Drejka then pulls a gun and shoots McGlockton once in the chest.
Defense attorney Bryant Camareno talked a lot about the video in the defense opening statements. He emphasized the 11 seconds in which the action occurred. He asked the jury to think about it in real time, not in slow motion.
“While Mr. McGlockton had no weapon, he was the weapon,” Camareno said. He asked them to consider Drejka’s perception of the danger he faced.
“The danger may not even be actual,” Camareno said. “It’s the appearance of danger that can cause him to act justifiably, excusably and in self defense.”
— Dan Sullivan
KATHRYN (11:45 a.m.)
If you’re wondering about why the jury is hearing about a past incident, we have more on that here. Please leave any questions in the comment section. We’ll be checking periodically.
Now, back to the courtroom.
Prosecutor Schaub is peppering Salous with questions about his surveillance camera system. That’s where video of the shooting came from.
Schaub turns to the February 2018 argument between Drejka and Kelly.
Salous says he heard a loud argument in the parking lot.
Did you hear what they were saying?
Kelly was saying he could park where he wanted.
Drejka was a regular visitor at the store, Salous says. He typically bought Monster energy drinks.
Did you have a conversation with Drejka?
He went inside to get a drink, Salous says, and I told him it’s not worth it to get into fights like that.
“He told me, ‘I can’t help it. I always get myself in trouble,’” Salous says.
The state as no more questions. Drejka attorney Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy starts cross-examination.
That day in February, you heard them arguing? Yes. You heard Kelly more than you heard Drejka? Yes.
Normally, Drejka is quiet, calm? “He’s a calm guy,” Salous says.
Coy is now asking about the quality of the surveillance system.
It’s “not the best, but it’s very good quality,” Salous says. It works for his purposes.
Coy finishes up. Schaub jumps back up with more questions about the camera system.
No further questions. Salous steps down.
Schaub calls for another bench conference.
And now it’s time for lunch.
KATHRYN (11:22 a.m.)
John Tyler takes the stand. He’s the owner of AA Cut Rate Septic, where Richard Kelly works.
After some housekeeping questions, prosecutor Schaub asks about a voicemail he received from Drejka in February 2018.
Tyler says Drejka left a message saying he had a complaint about one of his employees and to give him a call. Tyler then calls his employee, Kelly, to find out what happened.
The defense objects to some thinking out loud by Schaub, one of its many objections so far this morning. The state has raised one.
The testimony resumes. Tyler says he called Drejka. Drejka says that Kelly parked in the handicap spot and he took pictures that he’s going to give to police.
Here’s the rest of the conversation, according to Tyler:
“I kind of tried to explain that where that store is and where we empty our trunk is directly — we’re passing that store constantly.”
“I tried to explain that probably my driver didn’t give him the most polite response when he came out of the store … because there’s money in the truck.”
“He says, ‘If I had a gun, I could have shot him.’”
“I said, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. I have a gun, and in my training, I was taught to remove myself from those situations,” to not get yourself into a heated altercation.
“We weren’t really getting anywhere. The conversation was going in circles ...”
“So I basically said, ‘You do what you have to do with the pictures as far as turning them into the police department, if you feel you have to do that. We’ll agree to disagree.’ … and that’s where it ended.”
Schaub fast-forwards to July 19, the day Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton to death in the same parking area.
Tyler confirms that he encouraged Kelly to talk to deputies after he recognized Drejka’s SUV at the shooting scene.
No further questions from the state. Camareno takes cross-examination.
What did you know about what happened July 19? Did you know it was a shooting? he asks
“I heard the gunshot in my office,” Tyler says.
Now onto the phone call from the February argument.
“To me it was clear there was nothing I was going to do to make Mr. Drejka feel better about what had happened,” Tyler says.
No further questions for Tyler.
Next up: Abdalla Salous, owner of the Circle A convenience store where the shooting occurred.
KATHRYN (11:05 a.m.)
DeLeon is a detective in the robbery/homicide unit who responded to the shooting.
He tells Schaub he spoke that day to Kelly, who told him what he knew about the car.
Did you tell him it was a shooting? No.
Did you tell him the victim was a male? No. female? No. Race? No.
“Is it fair to say you didn’t tell him anything about the facts?”
DeLeon says he also took a statement from Kelly’s boss, John Tyler.
Schaub asks him about obtaining a search warrant for the defendant’s phone. Schaub holds up one of the photos they found on Drejka’s phone. It’s of Kelly’s tanker trunk.
State has no further questions. Drejka attorney John Trevena is conducting the cross-examination.
What were you doing at the scene? Trevena asks.
His job was to interview potential witnesses at the scene, DeLeon says.
He interviewed another driver in the parking lot, Kelly and Tyler, he says.
“It was Mr. Kelly who approached you, correct?” Yes. "He approached a deputy and they called me.”
How long were you there before Mr. Kelly came up? Probably within a couple hours, DeLeon says.
No further questions from the defense.
Next up is John Tyler, Richard Kelly’s boss.
But first, another bench conference at Trevena’s request.
KATHRYN (10:55 a.m.)
Schaub asks Kelly to point out the man in the silver SUV. Kelly points toward the defense table.
“Suit, blue shirt,” he says.
“Let the record reflect he’s identified the defendant Michael Drejka,” Schaub says.
Schaub turns to something that came up during the defense’s opening statement — that Kelly attended a rally for McGlockton a couple days after the shooting.
“What did you do?” Schaub asks
“I was kind of just walking, trying to see what was going on.”
Schaub has no further questions.
Camareno hops up to cross-examine Kelly.
Your testimony was that you were in fact parked in that handicap spot, correct? Yes, Kelly says.
He indicated he had a family member who was handicapped? Yes.
He wasn’t looking into the vehicle, was he? No.
There wasn’t any danger that he was going to steal money? No.
Was it one-sided? Or did you respond?
“I said a couple things. I used a little profanity,” Kelly says. “After he kept going on with it, I left it alone.”
“Did you at any point say to this gentleman, ‘Hey I’m sorry your mom is handicapped, I can move my car’?” Camareno says.
“I said if there’s anyone with you at this time that’s handicapped, I will move the vehicle,” Kelly says. He says he said it before the argument got started.
No one called police? No.
Now, moving to July 19, what did you know about what happened at the store when you approached police?
Kelly says he knew it was a homicide but no further details.
Now, onto the rally. Did you hear anything about participants wanting Drejka to be charged? No.
Back to the February confrontation. You never saw a gun? No.
Kelly leaves the stand. Next is Pinellas Sheriff’s Det. Nelson DeLeon.
DAN AND KATHRYN (10:45 a.m.)
Kelly says he visits the Circle A convenience store several times a week. He knows the owner.
During that trip the store, “it was the end of the day, it was hot. I ran in and got something to drink.”
“Did you park where you shouldn’t have been parking?” Schaub asks him.
Schaub asks him about his job working for a septic tank company based just down the street from the store. Kelly says he gets cash payments sometimes, and on that day, he had left the cash in his car while he ran inside.
When he walked back out, “I saw a guy walking around my truck taking pictures.”
He was concerned because of the money in the truck. He asked the man why he was taking pictures.
Schaub: “What did you tell him when you saw that?”
Kelly: “He stated a family member, his mom or something, was handicapped.” He then asked if that family member was here. Drejka said no.
They started to argue.
“There was a lot of profanity. … I let him know that we hold money in this truck and I don’t need him walking around this truck.”
Then, Drejka “said ‘I should shoot you, kill you,” Kelly says. “And I said, ‘Well I’m not afraid to die.’”
He says he didn’t see a gun, but Drejka walked back to his car and looked like he was getting something.
The store owner ended up coming outside and de-escalating the argument before anything else happened. Kelly, finished with work for the day, left the store and headed to the city dump.
Kelly didn’t call the police.
“I thought it was done. It was over.”
Drejka called someone, though: Kelly’s boss, the owner of the septic tank company.
The owner encouraged Kelly to talk to deputies at the scene of the July 19 shooting when Kelly recognized Drejka’s car.
Kelly tells prosecutor Schaub he didn’t want to get involved, but his boss said he should. So he approaches deputies, he says, and says he recognizes the car.
Schaub holds up a blown-up aerial photo of the parking lot and has Kelly point out where all the cars were parked.
Camareno interjects, asking the judge if they could approach the bench. Another bench conference is underway.
DAN (10:31 a.m.)
Judge Bulone reads a statement of facts to the jury. He tells them the evidence they’re about to receive (about priors acts by Drejka) “will be considered by you for the purpose of considering motive, opportunity and lack of self-defense.” He tells them it’s not evidence of a crime.
The state calls Richard Kelly, the tanker trunk driver who Drejka argued with back in February 2018.
KATHRYN (10:27 a.m.)
We’re back from break. Prosecutor Fred Schaub said the first witnesses the state will call are those from the prior incident. So, not the shooting, but the argument that happened five months before.
DAN AND KATHRYN (10:15 a.m.)
“I want you to remember the rules. You’re the fact finders. Justice is blind.”
Camareno goes over what he says are McGlockton’s advantages: He’s bigger than Drejka, and he had the height of a curb in the parking lot when he shoved Drejka.
“What happened here was unfortunate.”
Along with self-defense, Camareno raises another possible defense: excusable homicide. He harks on the fact that the shooting came out of “sudden provocation.”
“The only true and just verdict is that of not guilty.”
We’re now taking a short break.
DAN (10:07 a.m.)
Camareno goes back to the prior incident, again emphasizes that no crime was committed. He also says the jury will hear that the man involved later participated in protests against Drejka after the McGlockton shooting.
He also talks about expert witnesses, including one who will talk about use-of-force. He mentions that Drejka experienced confusion after he was shoved to the ground.
He plays the video again.
“I submit to you that … it was a combination of shock, nervousness …”
He also downplays the reliability of the video, saying that what jurors are seeing is a combination of “poor-quality video and nervousness.”
The jurors look on with expressionless faces.
KATHRYN (9:59 a.m.)
During his interview with detectives, Camareno says, Drejka “wasn’t lying. He was remembering the best he could with the impact he sustained.”
He tells juror, if you take notes, be sure to take down this one:
“The danger may not even be actual. It’s the appearance of danger that can cause him to act justifiably, excusably and in self defense.”
It’s also worth noting that earlier in his opening, Camareno downplays the prior incident, saying that Drejka isn’t on trial for that and wasn’t arrested for it, either.
He comes back to it now. Yes, Drejka had a pet peeve about people parking in handicap-reserved spots, Camareno says. But that’s not a crime.
As he’s walking around the cars in both situations, he’s looking for a handicap placard. He didn’t even know Jacobs was in the car, Camareno says, because he was wearing sunglasses and the car’s windows were tinted.
Camareno downplays the argument with Jacobs. The one who initiated the violent contact, he says, was McGlockton.
“We’re not driven by emotion, politics,” he says. “We’re driven by the facts.”
KATHRYN AND DAN (9:52 a.m.)
Attorney Bryant Camareno begins the defense opening.
He talks about the video.
“We want you to look at it in real time. We don’t want you to look at it in slow motion. … Life didn’t happen in slow motion for Mr. Drejka.”
He talks about the 11 seconds it took for McGlockton to exit the store and shove Drejka.
“While Mr. McGlockton had no weapon, he was the weapon."
Camareno tells the jury that the prior incident at the convenience store was not a crime.
He tells the jury to listen to what witnesses say on the stand, but also what they said back when the shooting happened. He asks them to weigh whether any witnesses have changed their story.
Camareno tells the jurors they will hear from a witness who says Drejka didn’t threaten Jacobs during their argument.
“Mr. Drejka was allowed to have a concealed weapon. Not once did he ever take that weapon out or threaten anybody.”
A witness will also testify about hearing McGlockton’s girlfriend say, “My man is about to F you up.”
“We want you to rely not on emotion but on facts. Facts. The truth.”
The attorney characterizes McGlockton’s shove as not just a shove but a “violent shove.”
“The force is so strong that it tore a hole in his shirt.”
You have the threat, “My man is going to F you up,” Camareno says. You have Britany getting out the car. You have the violent shove. It all happens in three to four seconds, Camareno says, and Drejka is wondering what’s going to happen to him.
DAN (9:42 a.m.)
Schaub tells the jury they will hear from an expert on use of force.
“What we’re on trial for today is what he did to Markeis McGlockton. … And he is presumed innocent. And you all need to honor that.”
Schaub tells the jury they need to presume Drejka innocent until they go to deliberate. He asks them to find him guilty of manslaughter.
He concludes his closing statement.
Next up, the defense. But first, another bench conference.
KATHRYN (9:33 a.m.)
Schaub gets a potentially unflattering fact from McGlockton’s autopsy out in the open. The autopsy showed he had the drug MDMA, better known as ecstasy, in his system at the time of his death. (More on the autopsy here.)
The state will have an expert testify about the effects of the drug.
“What you’re going to learn is it’s not a factor in this case,” Schaub says. “It’s called the love drug. It kind of makes you sensual. It doesn’t lead to aggressive behavior.”
DAN (9:30 a.m.)
Schaub tells the jury to listen carefully to what the defendant says in his interview with detectives.
“He was running toward me.”
The detective will say that the video doesn’t show that.
Schaub says they will play about an hour of Drejka’s interview with police.
DAN AND KATHRYN (9:26 a.m.)
Schaub shows the jury poster-sized photos of the surveillance images.
“This is the view that Mr. McGlockton had,” Schaub says.
“He saw there was a problem out there and he pushed that person away from his family. And that’s when the problem happened.”
Schaub explains that, on the ground, Drejka drew a gun.
“Mr. McGlockton backs up as far as he can go. … He starts to turn away from the confrontation. And he’s shot at that time.”
“As a matter of fact, the video speaks better than I can,” Schaub says.
The video plays on a monitor next to the jury box.
“Backs up, turns, shot,” Schaub says.
Schaub starts talking about military terms Drejka uses during his interview with detectives, including the “21-foot rule.” But, he says, the rule doesn’t apply if the assailant is unarmed.
“You’re going to hear that Mr. McGlockton was unarmed. No knife, no gun, no weapon of any kind on his person.”
KATHRYN (9:15 a.m.)
Back from the bench conference.
Schaub names the three children McGlockton and Jacob had at the time: Marshawn, Marlay and Markeis Jr. They had a fourth child, Martavius, after McGlockton’s death.
That day, Jacobs was coming from work as a certified nursing assistant, Schaub says. They stop at the Circle A Food Store, where Jacobs parks in a handicap parking space.
“We’re not going to say that’s right,” Schaub says. “It’s not.”
He describes when Drejka initially confronts Jacobs. He starts walking around her car, and Jacobs is “concerned. She’s by herself. She has two young babies in the car, and here’s some crazy guy walking around her car.”
Trevena objects. Judge Bulone overrules.
And, Schaub says, this is ironic: Drejka parked in a no-parking space.
“He pulls up in a non-parking spot to complain about her parking,” Schaub says.
DAN (9:12 a.m.)
Back from bench conference, Schaub continues. He tells the jury that Drejka later called and complained to the truck driver’s employer.
“He’s lucky I wasn’t carrying because I would have shot him,” Drejka said, according to the prosecutor.
Schaub explains how Pinellas County Sheriff’s detectives came to find out about the confrontation with the man in the February argument, Richard Kelly.
Kelly walked by the store after the shooting and recognized the silver SUV. Not knowing any details of what happened, Kelly approached the detectives and said he had some information.
“He had no agenda,” Schaub says.
Schaub then turns to the day of the shooting.
“July 19 was a typical day for Markeis McGlockton. Twenty-eight years old, father of three, another child on the way.”
Schaub starts to talk about how McGlockton and his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, met at Dunedin High, and Trevena objects once again.
They convene with the judge for another bench conference.
DAN AND KATHRYN (9:08 a.m.)
Schaub hones in on the prior incident, in which a truck driver stopped at the convenience store and came back out to find Drejka taking pictures of his truck. Drejka was apparently upset that the truck was in a handicap-labeled space.
Before the driver left, Drejka made a threat, Schaub says.
“He said, ‘I could shoot you. I could blow your head off.’”
John Trevena, one of Drejka’s attorneys, objects, his second objection of the morning already. The lawyers approach for a private chat with the judge.
DAN AND KATHRYN (9:01 a.m.)
The jury has entered the courtroom. Prosecutor Fred Schaub begins the state’s openings. He references statements Drejka made during a prior incident at the convenience store:
“You need to stop this behavior. You need to knock this off. I can’t help myself. It always gets me in trouble.”
“Those are the words of the defendant on Feb. 14 on Valentine’s Day last year when he got into an altercation,” Schaub says. “Five months later, those words rang true.”
On that day, he got into another confrontation.
Schaub then explains, briefly, the confrontation that resulted in the death of Markeis McGlockton.
“He took the life of another human being,” Schaub says, “without any legal justification.”
He also brings up the surveillance video, a key part of the state’s case.
“You have the opportunity to almost be there,” he said, “to see exactly what happened.”
KATHRYN (8:48 a.m.)
Hello from Courtroom 7 of the Pinellas County Justice Center. Court is now in session.
The gallery is full, one side by media and court officials, the other by spectators, including the mother and father of shooting victim Markeis McGlockton.
“It’s been an unbelievably hard year, and I wouldn’t wish what we have gone through on anyone,” his mother, Monica Moore-Robinson, said in a statement from the family’s lawyer. “But right now, all my energy is directed toward the trial. I am focused on getting a conviction. I want justice for my son.”
Said his father, Michael McGlockton: “I am optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. We have watched prior cases play out and many of them start out looking good, but then they go the other way. I am trying to remain positive. I am trying to believe that we could see even the slightest bit of justice for our son and his family.”
He was referring to the case of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s lawyers pursued the same defense strategy as Michael Drejka’s attorneys.
There are a couple key differences, though. There’s no video from the altercation. And Zimmerman didn’t have any prior confrontations that made it before the jury, as Drejka does.
Morning update: Making the case
A jury of five men and one woman has been sworn in, and at 8:45 this morning, they were scheduled to begin hearing the state’s case against Michael Drejka, 49, accused of manslaughter in the shooting death of 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton.
The jurors were selected during two days of interviews from a pool of about 90 people. None of the six jurors are black. They appear to range in age from their 20s to their 50s or 60s. Three alternates also were selected.
Drejka has argued that he fired in self defense after McGlockton pushed him down during an argument over a handicap-labeled parking spot at a Clearwater area convenience store. Drejka is white, McGlockton was black, and the case has sparked debate over Florida’s divisive stand your ground law.
— Dennis Joyce
The manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka was set to resume Wednesday morning with opening statements.
Drejka, 49, is accused in the fatal shooting July 19, 2018, of 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton.
McGlockton stopped by the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road near Clearwater at about 3:30 p.m. His girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, parked in a handicap-reserved spot outside the convenience store and waited in the car with two of the couple’s children — 4 months and 3 at the time. McGlockton, 28, went into the store with their third child, Markeis Jr., who was 5.
Drejka pulled into the parking lot and approached Jacobs. He asked Jacobs why she had parked in the spot if she didn’t have a handicap-designated plate or placard. The two started arguing. It escalated to the point that others in the parking lot started paying attention.
One of the witnesses entered the store and reported what was going on. McGlockton stepped back outside, walked up to Drejka and shoved him to the ground. Drejka pulled out a .40-caliber Glock handgun and shot McGlockton once in the chest. McGlockton was taken to Morton Plant Hospital and pronounced dead shortly after. The entire incident was caught on the store’s surveillance video.
Each day, our trial coverage team will live blog events straight from the courtroom.