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A white Florida man who fatally shot an unarmed black man during a dispute over a handicapped parking space last year was found guilty of manslaughter on Friday.
Michael Drejka, who killed Markeis McGlockton at the convenience store parking lot in Clearwater, Florida, in July 2018, told detectives he fired at McGlockton because he had been pushed to the ground and feared further attack.
Drejka was remanded into custody Friday night and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 10. A presentencing investigation will be completed before the sentencing date.
Drejka did not testify on his own behalf. His defense attorney said Friday during closing arguments that McGlockton caused his own death by shoving Drejka and that Drejka was only protecting himself by firing his gun.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday after two days of testimony. During the trial, which was in Clearwater, the prosecution played video of Drejka's interview with Pinellas County sheriff's detectives hours after the shooting.
“I can safely say my family can rest now,” McGlockton’s father, Michael McGlockton, said Friday night after the verdict was delivered. “Now we can start putting the pieces back together and move on.”
Initially, the sheriff's office did not charge Drejka, who has a concealed weapons license, citing self-defense under the state's divisive "stand your ground" law. But almost a month later, prosecutors filed manslaughter charges against Drejka.
Prosecutors had argued that Drejka started the altercation by confronting McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, because she was parked with her children in the handicapped space. They also said Drejka had no reason to fire as McGlockton was retreating.
Jacobs, McGlockton's longtime girlfriend, testified that she feared for her safety before the argument escalated.
She said she had pulled into the handicapped parking space with McGlockton and their young children to buy snacks and drinks.
She said that as she waited for McGlockton, a man began walking around her car. She said she cracked open her window and began arguing with Drejka when he questioned why she was parked in that spot.
Security video shows Drejka confronted Jacobs in her car outside the convenience store. McGlockton, who caught wind of the argument while inside the store, came outside and pushed Drejka to the ground. Drejka pulled a handgun and fatally fired at McGlockton.
“We’re thankful that the jury got it right,” said Michele Rayner-Goolsby, an attorney who represents McGlockton’s parents. “We’re thankful that the jury saw what we saw, saw what everybody saw on that video — that a parking lot vigilante with an ax to grind murdered Markeis McGlockton in cold blood."
Drejka's defense team countered that it was Jacobs who was the aggressor, and "not once did Mr. Drejka threaten" either McGlockton or Jacobs.
Although McGlockton "had no weapon," defense attorney Bryant Camareno told the court, "he was the weapon," referring to his 190-pound body.
An attorney representing Drejka, Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, on Friday night said that she and her client respected the jury’s decision but suggested there may be “some appeal issues” that would be addressed later.
"He always knew this was a possibility, so he wasn’t, you know, surprised,” Jean-Pierre Coy said. “He came into this knowing that he could possibly not leave out the front doors.”