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Trial date set in Clearwater parking lot shooting: August 2019

Defense attorney Bryant Camareno (left) talks to his client, defendant Michael Drejka (right), during an October pretrial hearing. Drejka’s case grabbed national attention after prosecutors charged him with manslaughter three weeks after he shot and killed a 28-year-old man in a parking lot on July 19. Drejka said he was acting in self-defense. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Dec. 14, 2018

LARGO — A judge has set a trial date in the case of Michael Drejka, the man who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot over the summer.

The trial is set to start Aug. 19, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone said during a hearing held Friday in the Clearwater case that became the latest flashpoint in the national debate over self-defense.

Prosecutors discussed their intent to use prior reports of gun threats and road rage in their case against Drejka, who was arrested on a manslaughter charge about three weeks after the fatal shooting. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially declined to arrest Drejka, saying his agency was precluded from doing so by Florida's stand your ground law.

ORIGINAL STORY: No arrest in fatal shooting during argument over handicap parking space

A November court document points to a 2012 incident in which deputies say Drejka pulled out a handgun after Tyler Smith, 18 at the time, stopped at a yellow light at U.S. 19 and State Road 580. Drejka held the gun outside his driver's side window, the document says, and motioned for Smith to walk back toward him. Smith left the scene.

Drejka denied showing the gun, the Tampa Bay Times previously reported. A deputy found a .40-caliber Glock in his center console.

The filing is the latest signal that the state intends to bring Drejka's past into the case, Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub said. An October court filing described an argument between Drejka and Rick Kelly at the same convenience store. Drejka threatened to shoot Kelly and used a racial slur when addressing him, Kelly told the Times. Bulone will decide at a later date whether the previous incidents are admissible in court.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Records show road rage, gun threats in stand your ground shooter's past

After Friday's hearing, defense attorney John Trevena held a news conference outside the courtroom and threw McGlockton's criminal history into the fray. The lawyer harped on a 2008 arrest in which McGlockton was accused of hitting his girlfriend, who police said was pregnant at the time.

The woman denied that it turned physical and told investigators she didn't want to prosecute, according to Clearwater police records. She also previously told the Times that she was never pregnant with his child. McGlockton was convicted of resisting an officer with violence in that incident. But charges of aggravated battery and disorderly conduct were dropped.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Markeis McGlockton: Artist, loving father, and much more than just a hashtag

That was McGlockton's only arrest for a violent offense as an adult, records show, contradicting Trevena's assertion that he had a "lengthy criminal history of violence."

Trevena said the incident shows a propensity for violence that should be taken into consideration because McGlockton had shoved Drejka in the moments before the shooting.

"To characterize him in any way as a saint or victim is a farce," said Trevena, standing beside his client. "It's time for the truth to come out. And the truth is that Mr. Drejka acted totally in self defense and in complete compliance with stand your ground."

Drejka's defense team hasn't formally declared their intention to use stand your ground as a defense, and Trevena said they're still deciding whether to go that route.

Trevena also pointed to McGlockton's toxicology report, which showed he had the drug ecstasy in his system at the time of the shooting.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Markeis McGlockton's autopsy shows he turned away from shooter

Michele Rayner, an attorney representing McGlockton's parents, said none of that information is relevant. She called Trevena's statements "classless" and equated them to victim blaming.

"I think it's very clear the defense does not have a case," Rayner said, "and they know they don't have a case, so what do we do? We don't try the case on facts. We try the case in the public."

Contact Kathryn Varn at kvarn@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.

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