ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Florida man accused in the shooting death of an unarmed man in a store parking lot apologized to the victim’s family during a jailhouse interview, but said he wouldn’t change anything about what he did that day in July.
“I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, but as far as changing anything, events, is what you’re asking, I don’t see – no, not off the top of my head,” said Michael Drejka, of Clearwater, Florida.
During an interview with Tampa TV station WTSP, Michael Drejka says he was scared during the incident that left 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton dead. The shooting quickly became controversial, in part because Drejka is white and McGlockton was black, and because it revived debate over Florida’s “stand your ground” law. “I followed the law the way I felt the law was supposed to be followed. I cleared every hurdle that that law had to, had to put in front of me,” said Drejka, who added that he felt “vindicated” when Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri did not initially arrest him.
Prosecutors on Aug. 13 charged Drejka with manslaughter. He’s still in jail, with bail set at $100,000. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office recorded the TV station’s interview, and released that to the media over the weekend.
Surveillance video from July 19 shows Drejka initiating a confrontation over a parking space. McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, was seated in the couple’s car with two of their children, ages 3 years and 4 months, when she said Drejka confronted her for being parked in a disabled-accessible space without a permit when other spaces were available. McGlockton had gone into the store with the couple’s 5-year-old son, also named Markeis.
McGlockton then came out and knocked Drejka to the pavement.
“It felt like I was tackled or someone hit me from behind with something. I left my feet, slid along the ground, before I was able to – yes, I was stunned, yeah,” Drejka said. “I didn’t know what was coming for me and there’s only one way to look at that. You have to be scared for it, ‘cuz if you’re not, you’re wrong, you’re wrong. And that’s that.”
Video then captured what happened next: Drejka pulled a handgun and fired as McGlockton backed away.
In the interview, Drejka said the altercation was not about race and said he is not racist. He said reports that he previously confronted a black septic tank worker and called him the “N-word” over parking in the same spot at the convenience store are false.
“I’ve worked with too many people, met too many people in my life to be that kind of person,” said Drejka. “It doesn’t help anyone, you know, and to have a, that kind of feeling about an entire race of people seems foreign to me.”
Drejka said that parking spaces for the disabled “have always touched a nerve” because his high school girlfriend and his mother-in-law used disabled parking spots.
McGlockton’s family has been outspoken in their dismay over how the case was handled, and hired attorney Benjamin Crump, who gained national prominence representing the family of Trayvon Martin after the black teen’s fatal shooting by a Hispanic man in 2012.