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LARGO — Britany Jacobs sat wearing a black dress, her shoulders hunched, her voice low.
She looked toward the nine men and women in the jury box, six of whom will decide whether the death of her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, was a crime or a justifiable act of self-defense.
She leaned toward the microphone and told her story.
“I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t know who this strange, suspicious man was.”
The man, she would learn, was Michael Drejka. In court Wednesday, he sat across the room from Jacobs, close enough for her to identify him by his light blue shirt. Jacobs’ testimony came on the third day of Drejka’s trial for manslaughter.
The day started with impassioned opening arguments from each side, then compelling testimony from witnesses of the July 19, 2018, shooting.
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Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub walked jurors through the details of what happened. He told them how Drejka argued with Jacobs because she had parked in a handicap-reserved space outside the Circle A Food Store near Clearwater. He told them how McGlockton came out, walked up to Drejka and shoved him to the ground.
Then the prosecutor told them how Drejka then pulled out a gun and shot McGlockton in the chest.
“He took the life of another human being without any legal justification,” Schaub told the jury.
Attorney Bryant Camareno, giving the defense’s opening statement, said a surveillance video recorded the confrontation. He asked the jury to view it in real time, not slow motion, and to consider how Drejka perceived the events.
“While Mr. McGlockton had no weapon, he was the weapon,” Camareno said.
Then the state started assembling its case, questioning witnesses who spoke of a confrontation that occurred five months before McGlockton’s death. It was an argument that Drejka had with a truck driver, who parked in the same parking space.
“I should shoot you, kill you,” Richard Kelly, the truck driver, recalled Drejka telling him.
But the most emotional testimony came from Jacobs, 26, who at the time of the shooting worked as a certified nursing assistant. On the stand, she called McGlockton her “soulmate and partner." The couple had three young kids together at the time of the shooting. She had their fourth child in January, after his death.
The day of the shooting, the family was in the car when Jacobs pulled into the Circle A Food Store parking lot, a spot they visited frequently. She told the jury she parked in a handicap-reserved parking space because she often saw other people park there.
McGlockton went inside with their oldest son while Jacobs stayed back in the car with the other two kids. That’s when a white man in sunglasses started walking around her car. Concerned, she cracked open her window.
Drejka questioned her about why she parked there because her car bore no handicap placard. He was acting “angry and aggressive," Jacobs told the jury. She and McGlockton are black.
She wasn’t the only witness who described Drejka that way. The jury also heard from bystanders. One, Vicki Conrad, said Drejka was “authoritative” and “argumentative.”
Said the other bystander, Robert Castelli: “He was in a threatening manner, pointing towards the car.”
As the argument escalated, Jacobs asked him if she should get McGlockton.
“I said that as in maybe he’ll leave me alone," Jacobs said. "Maybe he’ll back off if he knows I have somebody with me,”
She said Drejka answered: “Yes, if you want him to fight.”
“So the person who brought up fight first was the defendant?” prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser asked her.
“Correct,” Jacobs said.
As the arguing continued, Castelli went into the store to tell the clerk about the dispute. McGlockton, at the counter, put his stuff down and walked out of the store.
Jacobs saw him coming, she said. She got out of the car, an action Drejka’s defense team said was as an odd move if she was scared. Her reasoning was that “if anything was going to happen, it was going to happen outside the car, not inside the car with my babies.”
“Get away from my girl,” is what McGlockton said, she testified, before shoving Drejka to the ground.
Then Drejka pulled out the gun. McGlockton backed up as far as he could go with the car in the way, Jacobs said. She moved to the left. Castelli, who went back outside thinking he’d have to break up a fight, crouched between two cars.
Then came the gunshot.
McGlockton grabbed his side and stumbled back into the store. Jacobs ran after him.
Inside, Conrad heard Jacobs scream.
“Help me!” she said. “Help us!”
Conrad grabbed a T-shirt from the store and told Jacobs to put pressure on McGlockton’s wound. Then she left the store to check on the couple’s children. She saw Drejka, seated on the pavement. She asked if it was okay to come out.
Drejka told her everything was fine, she said, that it had all been caught on video.
“He stated everything very calmly,” Conrad said, “almost proud.”
Daily trial coverage
Michael Drejka released on bail in Clearwater parking space incident (Sept. 24, 2018)
Why video makes this Florida stand your ground debate different (Aug. 24, 2018)
Past gun threat allowed in trial of Clearwater parking lot shooter (April 26, 2019)