Video of fatal shooting in dispute over parking space takes center stage at trial originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
A Florida jury heard two vastly different interpretations of a security video at the start of the trial of a man who fatally shot an unarmed father in front of his family during a confrontation over a handicapped parking space.
While a prosecutor implored the jury Wednesday to focus on every frame of the footage showing the defendant Michael Drejka shooting Markeis McGlockton outside a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida, a defense attorney countered that "you can't rely on what you see in the video."
Drejka, 47, is charged with manslaughter in the July 19, 2018 killing of McGlockton, 28, in front of McGlockton's then-pregnant girlfriend and their three young children.
Among the first witnesses prosecutors called on Wednesday was McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, who testified about seeing McGlockton getting shot by Drejka and then watching the man she called her "soulmate" fighting for his life.
Jacobs, 26, said the incident unfolded when Drejka approached her car and began yelling at her for parking in a handicapped spot. She said she was inside the car with her two younger children, an infant and a 3-year-old. She said Drejka "scared" her.
"He was more angry and aggressive. He was yelling and pointing and telling me where I should park," Jacobs said. "I just wanted this man to leave me alone, just leave me and my babies alone."
But she said Drejka continued to yell at her.
"I said, 'Do you want me to get my man?' I said that as in, OK, maybe he'll leave me alone, maybe he'll back off if he knew I had somebody with me," Jacobs said she told herself at the time. "He kept arguing with me and said, 'Yes, if you want him to fight.'"
She said that McGlockton, who had been in the Circle A store with their 5-year-old son, Markeis Jr., came out of the store and yelled at Drejka to "get away from my girl" before he pushed Drejka to the ground.
In a flash, Drejka, she said, pulled a gun and fired at McGlockton as he was retreating.
"He was backing up. He couldn't back up no farther because the car was there," Jacobs said.
She said the mortally-wounded McGlockton stumbled back into the store. When she followed him inside, she saw him on the floor "fighting for his life."
"So I grabbed a T-shirt and put it on his wound to stop the bleeding," said Jacobs, a certified nursing assistant.
Despite efforts by her and paramedics, McGlockton died.
Drejka initially invoked Florida's so-called "stand your ground" self-defense law that went into effect in 2005, allowing people to use lethal force if they consider their lives to be in imminent jeopardy. But Drejka and his attorneys have since scrapped that argument in favor of a plain self-defense case.
Both sides highlighted in their opening statements the grainy, soundless video that showed the shooting unfold outside the Circle A store.
Defense attorney Bryant Camareno urged the jury to put themselves in Drejka's shoes, saying his client was "violently shoved" to the ground by McGlockton and threatened by McGlockton's girlfriend before Drekja pulled a gun while seated on the pavement and fired once.
"While Mr. McGlockton -- may he rest in peace -- had no weapon, he was the weapon," Camareno told the jury.
During her testimony, Jacobs denied ever threatening Drejka.
Camareno said Drejka, who had a legal permit to carry a concealed weapon, was "blindsided" by McGlockton, who was taller and heavier, and while in a state of confusion and fear, Drejka thought he was going to be harmed.
"I submit that the evidence will show that the use of force was justifiable because ... Mr. Drejka reasonably believed that force was necessary," Camareno said. "The only true, just verdict is that of not guilty."
Meanwhile, Assistant Pinellas County State Attorney Fred Schaub told the jury of five men and one woman that the video of the shooting, coupled with testimony from witnesses and experts, will prove that Drejka is guilty of manslaughter.
"He took the life of another human being unlawfully, without any legal justification," Schaub said. "And that's what we're going to prove to you during the course of this trial."
He asked the jury to consider the totality of the evidence and "return to this courtroom with a verdict that speaks the truth, a verdict that says, 'We, the members of the jury, each and every one of us, finds the defendant guilty of the crime of manslaughter.'"
Schaub said it wasn't the first time Drejka got into an altercation over the same handicapped parking space.
The first witness the prosecution called was Richard Kelly, a truck driver, who had a similar confrontation with Drejka on Feb. 14, 2018, five months before McGlockton was shot to death.
Kelly testified that Drejka approached and started yelling at him for parking in a handicapped space. Kelly said the confrontation got so heated that Drejka threatened to shoot him.
"He said, 'I should shoot you, kill you,'" Kelly testified. "I told him, 'Well, I'm not afraid to die.'"
Kelly said Drejka never pulled a gun on him and that he never saw a weapon. He said he walked away from the confrontation.
Schaub said in his opening statement that Drejka later called Kelly's boss to complain. Shaub said Kelly's boss, John Tyler, will testify that Drejka told him, "'He [Kelly] is lucky I wasn't carrying because I could have shot him.'"
Camareno slammed the prosecutor for making it appear that the confrontation with Kelly somehow showed that Drejka has a pattern of practice that eventually led to the shooting of McGlockton. He said Drejka was never arrested or charged in the incident and that neither Kelly nor Tyler called the police to report it.
He said Drejka has a "pet peeve" about people parking in handicapped spaces and told the jury, "That's not a crime."
While Camareno said the jury "can't rely" on the video as it's "not the best quality," he showed it several times, freezing it to show McGlockton coming out of the store and shoving Drejka to the ground.
"We want you to look at the video. We want you to look at it in real-time. We don't want you to look at it in slow motion, because life doesn't happen in slow motion," Camareno said.
He said the evidence will show that it took 11 seconds between the time McGlockton made a "beeline" toward Drejka and pushed him to the ground before being shot.
"Excusable homicide is when someone reacts in a heat of passion, sudden provocation," Camareno said. "When you hear the testimony of these witnesses, you'll see that there was sudden provocation ... on the part of Mr. McGlockton."