CLEARWATER, Fla. — The girlfriend of a man who was fatally shot in a Florida parking lot last year during a confrontation over a handicapped-accessible space took the stand Wednesday in the gunman's manslaughter trial, recounting how she feared for her own safety before the argument grew heated.
Britany Jacobs gave her first public account of what she says occurred at the Clearwater convenience store parking lot in July 2018. The longtime girlfriend of Markeis McGlockton, 28, said she had pulled into the handicapped-accessible spot with McGlockton and their young children, and as she waited for him to run inside and grab snacks, a man began walking around her car.
She cracked her window open, she said, and got into an argument with the defendant, Michael Drejka, when he questioned why she was parked in that spot.
"I just wanted this man to leave me alone," she said. "Leave me and my babies alone."
She said she told Drejka: "Do you want me to get my man?"
The statement, she told prosecutors, was her way to scare off Drejka. But they continued to argue, and Jacobs, 26, said Drejka agreed she should call her boyfriend over if she wanted a fight.
"It was loud," Jacobs said of their spat, which caught the attention of witnesses. "Everybody was noticing at the time."
Jacobs' testimony detailed the moment when Drejka shot McGlockton and how McGlockton "was fighting for his life" in the aftermath.
During their opening statements, prosecutors attempted to paint Drejka, 48, as the aggressor and that his decision to shoot McGlockton was unjustified. They also said that Drejka made it his business to patrol the handicapped-accessible space, even though he didn't work at the convenience store.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office did not initially arrest Drejka, who has a concealed weapons license, citing self-defense under the state's "stand your ground" law. But almost a month later, prosecutors filed manslaughter charges against Drejka.
Drejka's defense team Wednesday countered that it was Jacobs who was the aggressor in the case, 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 muscular frame.
After McGlockton was alerted to the argument occurring outside, he went to the parking lot and immediately pushed Drejka — an action that was caught on surveillance camera.
McGlockton had said, "Get away from my girl," before shoving Drejka to the ground, Jacobs testified.
Drejka pulled his gun from his pocket and shot McGlockton in the chest, according to police. McGlockton then ran back into the store, where surveillance footage from inside showed him falling in front of his 5-year-old son.
At the heart of the trial is whether Drejka acted reasonably when he responded with deadly force.
Prosecutor Fred Schaub earlier explained to the jury that McGlockton was merely defending his family.
"McGlockton did not have a weapon," Schaub said. "You'll hear testimony from the medical examiner that shows McGlockton was shot in the side. He was turning when he got shot."
Outside of the Pinellas County Justice Center, Camareno told NBC News that McGlockton's initial decision to get physical was what led to the deadly outcome. "Our client did not provoke this situation at all," he added.
Michele Rayner-Goolsby, who is representing McGlockton's parents, said the outcome of this case will be closely watched because of how it touches on race — Drejka is white and McGlockton was black — as well as how law enforcement treats people of color since it took 25 days before any charges were brought against Drejka.
Drejka's attorneys have said race is not an issue, and that Drejka has confronted other people about parking in the handicapped-accessible spot no matter their background.
Among the others who testified Wednesday was a black man who said he got into an argument with Drejka over that same parking space five months before McGlockton was killed.
The trial is expected to last about two to three weeks.
Gabe Gutierrez and Xuan Thai reported from Clearwater, and Erik Ortiz from New York.