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Jurors hear Michael Drejka in his own words

The state rests its case in the parking lot shooting case after showing the jury video of Drejka’s interview with detectives.
Jurors in the Michael Drejka manslaughter trial were shown a video Thursday of Pinellas Sheriff detectives interviewing defendant Michael Drejka, right, after he shot Markeis McGlockton at the Circle A Food Mart in Clearwater in July 2018. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Aug. 22
Updated Aug. 23

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LARGO — A few hours after the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton outside the Circle A Food Store, Michael Drejka sat in the corner of a white-walled interrogation room at a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office substation.

Facing him were two detectives, George Moffett and Richard Redman. They asked Drejka what drew him into the fatal argument earlier that day outside the store.

“Every day there’s somebody pulled in the handicapped spot there,” Drejka said. “I have a pet peeve about that.”

RELATED STORY: Day 4 live blog

Joseph Soutullo, a media forensic specialist with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office watches a video of defendant Michael Drejka shooting Markeis McGlockton outside of the Circle A Food Mart, Clearwater in July 2018. The video was shown to the jury Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

In a soft voice, his hands resting on a table at times, Drejka said he had seen a car parked in the handicap-reserved space that day.

He described how he inspected the vehicle and saw no handicap placard. He recounted the argument that ensued with the driver, Britany Jacobs, who said her boyfriend would come outside and deal with the situation. He told the detectives how McGlockton shoved him to the ground and how he drew a pistol and shot McGlockton.

A jury watched video of the hour-long interrogation Thursday on the fourth day of Drejka’s manslaughter trial.

Noel Palma, an associate medical examiner at the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiners office, right, shows jurors where the gunshot wound was on the body of the late Markeis McGlockton, using the upper body of Pinellas Pasco Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub, left. The demonstration was shown to the jury in the Michael Drejka manslaughter trial Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

Later in the day, they heard from two toxicology experts, one hired by the state and the other by the defense, who had opposing opinions about whether the drugs in McGlockton’s system at the time of his death played a part in the July 19, 2018, shooting.

Drejka, 49, is expected to argue that he was defending himself from an imminent attack when the shooting happened. He said as much in the video interview.

“As I start leveling off my weapon he makes his next step towards me and 21-foot rule,” Drejka said.

“Did he say anything to you?” Moffett asked.

“Negative,” said Drejka. “Not a word. … He made a step toward me. And that was that.”

But as they questioned him, the detectives revealed holes in Drejka’s recollection of events.

Drejka told them he feared a beating was imminent.

“Why did you think the guy was going to beat you?” Redman asked.

“Because I just got blind-sided out of nowhere,” Drejka said. “What else would I think? … I’ve never been in that situation before.”

RELATED STORY: Catch up on the case

“What if I told you I looked at the (surveillance) video and at no point does he come running toward you?” Redman asked. “He actually takes a step back.”

Drejka said that would not be accurate.

Throughout the conversation, Drejka used military and police terms. He said repeatedly that he “neutralized” the threat.

He said he had a concealed weapons permit and that he had carried a weapon since he was 22.

He was asked why he put himself in the situation to begin with. If he was so concerned about the car parking in a handicap-reserved spot, why not just call the cops?

“Why bother you (the police) with this stupid thing that I got?” he replied.

He was asked if he got a look at the man he shot. Drejka said he only saw legs and hips. He could see that the man was black.

“If he hadn’t twitched, I never would have pulled that trigger,” he said.

Toward the end of the interview, Moffett informed Drejka that McGlockton, the man he had shot, was dead.

Drejka paused.

“Thank you for telling me,” he said quietly.

Detectives asked him if he wanted to say anything else.

“Other than the stand your ground thing,” he said. “I did exactly what I thought I was supposed to be doing at that time considering what was happening to myself.”

Dr. Daniel Buffington, a clinical pharmacologist, testifies in the Michael Drejka manslaughter trial Thursday in Pinellas County. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

After lunch, jurors listened for hours to the drug experts: for the defense, Daniel Buffington, an associate professor at the University of South Florida who owns his own clinical pharmacology business, and for the state, Bruce Goldberger, chief of forensic medicine and director of toxicology at the University of Florida.

They talked about the drugs in McGlockton’s system, MDMA and MDA, and how they could have impacted his actions the day of the shooting.

Both agreed that one drug caused the other. MDMA, better known as ecstasy, typically metabolizes into an analog called MDA. But while Goldberger said it was a “love drug,” Buffington said the drug’s adverse side effects can include impulsivity, aggression, reckless behaviors and impaired decision-making. Behavior, he said, that’s consistent with how McGlockton acted that day.

On cross-examination, the state picked apart the assessment of McGlockton’s actions. Buffington stood by his findings.

At one point, Judge Bulone interjected, speaking directly to Buffington: “How about when he asks you the question you actually answer the question?”

As the clock ticked toward 6 p.m., jurors rarely took notes and glanced down at their watches.

The judge said it’s possible the trial could wrap up Friday. The defense has two expert witnesses to present. After that, the jury will hear closing arguments, then begin deliberations.

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