CLEARWATER — Markeis McGlockton has become a hashtag, a name at the end of the phrase "Justice for," an identity that will forever be associated with Florida’s controversial stand your ground law since the man who killed him wasn’t initially arrested because of it.
But to friends and family members, he was a dedicated father, always with his three kids in tow. He was an artist who could draw anything and an aspiring rapper. And, while imperfect, with some past brushes with the law, he had a big heart that only grew with the birth of his oldest son, who shares his name.
"It’s just weird when you’re around, and everybody’s talking about him, but he’s not here," said his aunt, Rosa Johnson.
The night after the July 19 shooting in the parking lot of a convenience store, he came to a longtime friend in a dream.
Jasmine Simpson spotted his face in a waiting room full of people, she said. He asked her to take a walk with him. She realized she still hadn’t met his baby boy, born on his birthday in March. So he pulled out a few photos to show her.
The dream didn’t feel right, she said. He seemed somber, unlike the jokester she’d come to know and love.
She woke up, turned on her phone, and the news flooded in. McGlockton was dead at 28.
"That’s when the dream made sense to me," Simpson, 27, said. "He was coming to say goodbye."
Markeis Deon McGlockton was born March 28, 1990, to Monica Moore-Robinson and Michael McGlockton.
His father told the Associated Press that he was in a high school Spanish class when he learned that his girlfriend was in labor. It was the best day of his life, he said.
"I stayed with him all night, crying," Michael McGlockton, 46, said. "I was just happy."
Markeis McGlockton’s parents and longtime girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, declined interviews for this article.
Barbara Williams, McGlockton’s maternal grandmother, told the Tampa Bay Times he grew up in her Clearwater home while his mom continued with high school. The house was full of children, a mix of his own siblings and Williams’ kids.
Williams, who worked as a certified nursing assistant at the time, said McGlockton liked to follow her around — to the laundromat, to the grocery store.
"He was always my little helper," Williams, 62, said.
Pinellas County school records show McGlockton bounced around from elementary schools in High Point, Palm Harbor, Dunedin and Gulfport. He went to middle school in St. Petersburg then moved on to Boca Ciega High in Gulfport.
It was during those years that he met Simpson, who lived across the street from him in South St. Petersburg. He knew her brother from school, and after talking at a neighbor’s house, "we just clicked," she said.
Simpson had just gotten out of juvenile detention, and she learned McGlockton had his own troubles. Records show a smattering of juvenile arrests including battery and fleeing and eluding.
The friends would spend hours talking about school, their families, their futures.
"I just wanted something else with my life. I’m not with this getting in trouble and stuff," she said. "He was just looking for something in his life, too ... The thing that clicked with me about him is we were one in the same. He was genuine."
McGlockton dropped out before graduation, a fact that still frustrates Williams, who said he only needed a half-credit more. He didn’t want any more school, she said.
"When you get a certain age, you can’t be told," she said.
He got a job at a Burger King in Clearwater. An aunt on his father’s side, Juanita Miles, recalled he’d walk the more than three miles from his apartment to the restaurant, determined to keep the job. He later started a job working nights as a clerk at a Clearwater 7-Eleven, which he kept until his death.
For fun, he rapped about his life and made music videos with friends. More recently, he got into painting. A cousin, Mesha Gilbert, said he had a profound visual memory. He had recently showed her a painting of a scene at a park he used to take his kids.
"It was like a spitting image," Gilbert, 26, said. "That’s just a gift in itself."
As a young adult, he met Jacobs, the mother of his three children.
Jacobs, 25, said in a previous interview with the Times that they started dating in 2009 after meeting at a friend’s house. He was her high school sweetheart.
"Once you see him, you see me," she said.
First came Markeis Jr. in 2013. McGlockton was so excited, he tried to rush the midwife to deliver him. His father told the Times in a previous interview that he got a phone call telling him Jacobs was in labor and to hurry up and get to the hospital to deal with his over-eager son.
A daughter, Marlay, came two years later, then another son, Marshawn. All three were born in March, the third on McGlockton’s birthday this year.
As Jacobs worked during the day, the father and children did everything together. Playtime at the park, visits to grandma’s house, outings to Chuck E. Cheese’s, where McGlockton seemed to have more fun than his kids. Even the owner of the convenience store, where McGlockton was a regular, said he rarely saw him without them in tow.
"He was one of the good ones," his grandmother, Williams, said.
Fatherhood seemed to change him, family members said. Records from the years before little Markeis show scrapes with the law, including convictions for drug possession and sale in 2010.
In 2008, he was accused of hitting and pushing his former girlfriend to the ground in front of several witnesses during an argument. She denied that it turned physical and told police she didn’t want to prosecute. Aggravated battery and disorderly conduct charges were dropped, although he was convicted on a resisting an officer with violence charge.
Five years later, Gilbert, his cousin, accused him of punching her repeatedly in the face and head during an argument over money. She stopped cooperating with investigators, and McGlockton was never arrested. The police report includes a text message he sent to her apologizing. "Man did some searchin in myself and i can honestly ... say that i was out of line wit you," he wrote.
Gilbert did not return a request for comment on the incident.
Simpson recalls the two fights and was a witness to the first, which was during a tumultuous relationship with a girlfriend five years older than him, she said. Things got out of hand, and her friend made mistakes.
But those shouldn’t be used to discredit the rest of his life, she said, or to justify what happened to him.
"At the end of the day, we’re all people," Simpson said. "But it’s not right. What happened to him is not right."
The family, together as usual, pulled into the parking lot of the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road on July 19 to buy snacks and drinks.
McGlockton headed inside with his 5-year-old son. Jacobs stayed back with the other two kids in the car. A man later identified as Michael Drejka approached the car, wanting to know why Jacobs had parked in a spot reserved for people with disabilities. They started arguing.
A customer told McGlockton about the tension brewing outside. As seen on a surveillance video, McGlockton, unarmed, leaves the store, walks up to Drejka and shoves him to the ground. Drejka pulls a gun and shoots him.
McGlockton stumbled back into the store and collapsed. Jacobs frantically put pressure on his wound as the son he shared a name with watched.
The shooting shook the community then gained steam around the country. Civil rights activists raised questions of racial injustice as weeks passed with no arrest for Drejka, who is white, in the shooting of an unarmed black man protecting his family. Prosecutors later charged Drejka with manslaughter.
The grainy black and white surveillance video swirled on the news and online. Some loved ones, like Simpson, couldn’t bear to watch it. Williams has viewed it over and over again. She’d rather know than not know.
Everywhere she goes, people touch her, offering their condolences: "Are you okay, Barbara? I know that’s your boy."
She’s found comfort in words from Markeis Jr., who started school last month. They talked on the phone the day after the shooting.
"Grandma," he told her, "we’ll get through it."
Times senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or [email protected] Follow @kathrynvarn.