Michael Drejka is on trial for manslaughter. This coming after he shot an unarmed man outside a convenience store in Florida. Drejka told police that he only fired after the man shoved him to the ground and then ran at him.
Surveillance video from the store seems to contradict him and shows the man, Markeis McGlockton, taking several steps back in the moments before the fatal shot. This is a point that police have challenged Drejka on.
“What happens if I told you that I looked at the video and at no time and point does he come running up toward you. He actually takes a step back,” the officer, Det. Richard Redman, says in an interview with Drejka on the day of the shooting last year.
“I would disagree,” Drejka responded.
Video of that police interview, including Drejka’s reenactment of the shooting, was played in court yesterday. Drejka’s attorney said the killing was in self-defense after he was threatened and then shoved to the ground.
According to a report from CNN, the fatal incident began when Drejka confronted and began yelling at McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, who was parked with two of her children in a handicap-accessible spot outside a Circle A food store. As their argument escalated, McGlockton came from inside the store and forcibly shoved Drejka, who fell to the ground.
Drejka then pulled out his gun and fired at McGlockton.
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In opening statements, defense attorney Bryant Camareno argued that Drejka’s comments to police were simply his best recollection of what happened and showed his perception at the time.
“He wasn’t lying, he was remembering the best that he could from the impact that he sustained,” Camareno said.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially declined to arrest Drejka, citing Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people to respond to threats or force without fear of criminal prosecution.
But a month later, the state attorney charged the 49-year old with manslaughter.
Drejka’s attorneys have abandoned their argument that he should be immune to prosecution because of “stand your ground,” even though Drejka discussed it as part of his original interview with police.
“(Unclear) the ‘stand your ground’ thing, and I did exactly what I thought I was supposed to be doing at that time considering what was happening to myself,” he said.
During that interview, Drejka got down on the ground to reenact the moments of the fatal shooting. He said that he was shoved from the side and thought McGlockton was going to start kicking him and beating him.
“If he was going to hit me that hard to begin with, a blind side from the get-go, what else should I expect?” Drejka said.
Police continued to question him regarding the discrepancy between his story that McGlockton took steps toward him and the surveillance video.
“That is exactly what I saw,” Drejka insisted.
The prosecution heard testimony from a police use-of-force expert and a pathologist who examined McGlockton.
In his police interview, Drejka mentioned the 21-foot rule, which is a general consideration that a suspect within 21 feet can attack an officer faster than they can pull a weapon and fire.
Roy Dedary, a police trainer, testified for the prosecution that the rule does not mean that you can simply shoot someone if they are within 21 feet.
A forensic pathologist also testified that McGlockton had MDMA, or ecstasy, in his system when he died.
Bruce Goldberger, a toxicology expert testifying for the prosecution, said that MDMA is a social drug and causes empathy and euphoria in users. He stated that drug does not cause aggressiveness or impulsiveness.
To the contrary, defense witness Daniel Buffington, also a clinical toxicologist expert, said the amount of MDMA found in McGlockton’s body was “significantly higher” than what would be found in a clinical setting.
Buffington, an associate professor at the University of South Florida’s pharmacy department, said the drug can cause confusion and aggression and could have had adverse effects on how McGlockton acted.
Scott Rosenwasser, an assistant state attorney, sought to challenge Buffington’s opinion about the effects of MDMA during cross examination.
In the questioning, Rosenwasser asked if Buffington would agree that euphoria is one of the most common effects of using MDMA.
Buffington: “Yes, followed by depression and other neurobiological side effects.”
Rosenwasser then pointed to an article Buffington used as basis for his opinion, which said the most frequent effects of MDMA included euphoria, happiness and increased empathy.
Buffington: “I’m not saying those don’t happen. I’m saying that there’s no predictability that that’s going to be the outcome you achieve.”
Rosenwasser: “But the most frequent effects, what mostly happens are these things.”
Buffington: “I agree. And I don’t think we saw any of those displayed at the event in this case.”
He said in reviewing the evidence, he didn’t’ see happiness and contentment in McGlockton during the confrontation.
Rosenwasser: “Were you expecting to see happiness, warmth and contentment when Mr. McGlockton went outside the store after hearing that the defendant, over here, was confronting his girlfriend in the parking lot?”
Buffington: “I don’t even understand the nature of that question.”
The prosecution rested its case following only two days of testimony. The defense has started calling witnesses and their testimonies will be ongoing today.
McGlockton’s death sparked national headlines, especially after the Sheriff declined to make an arrest.
Al Sharpton criticized the Sheriff for not arresting the white man who shot and killed an unarmed black man.
“This case should not be tried in a parking lot of a convenience store,” Sharpton said. “It should be tried in a courtroom.”
As a result, Gualtieri was asked about Sharpton’s comments Monday during a press conference for an unrelated investigation.
“It’s a bunch of rhetoric. I don’t pay much attention to it, to tell you the truth. I wasn’t there, and I don’t really care what Al Sharpton has to say,” Gualtieri said. “Go back to New York. Mind your own business.”
In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, a spokeswoman for Sharpton compared the sheriff’s comments to “those of sheriffs out of the 1960s that used to call civil rights leaders invited in by victims, “outside agitators.’”
“The facts and the law matter,” the Sheriff added. “Learn the facts and learn the law, and then you can opine.”
Subsequently, the DA’s office did choose to move forward with charges against Drejka, leading to the ongoing trial.
Just in case this situation needed anymore complications,the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office homicide detective who had played a leading role in the case against parking-lot shooter Michael Drejka was arrested and fired after he showed up intoxicated to a death investigation scene, according to the agency.
George D. Moffett Jr., 48, was off duty before he responded about 10:30 p.m. on January 6, 2019, roughly 6 months after the McGlockton shooting. Moffett responded from his home in Riverview to a fatal shooting at 10610 Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
However, after he exited his unmarked detective unit, deputies noticed signs of impairment, reported Tampa Bay Times.
Field deputies noticed the detective smelled like alcohol, had bloodshot eyes and was slurring his speech, the Sheriff’s Office said.
As a result, deputies began a DUI investigation in tandem with the shooting investigation. Moffett performed poorly in field sobriety tests, the Sheriff’s Office said. He also admitted to drinking four mixed drinks — Crown Royal and ginger ale, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Friday. Consequently, Moffett was arrested for DUI.
“To say that it’s disappointing is an understatement,” Gualtieri said, adding that Moffett was armed. “The recipe for disaster was definitely there and thank God nothing happened.”
Paramount to the investigation, Moffett wrote the warrant that led to Drejka’s eventual arrest and, along with another detective, interviewed Drejka in the hours after the July 19 shooting.
Moffett’s arrest drew the attention of attorneys representing Drejka, who stands accused of manslaughter in the shooting of McGlockton.
Predictably, John Trevena, one of Drejka’s attorneys, said he plans to raise the arrest at trial during cross examination.
“His lack of credibility, I believe, is fatal to the state’s case,” Trevena said. “Was he drunk when he investigated the Drejka shooting?”
Trevena said Moffett told him in a deposition that he was in favor of Drejka’s arrest and the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office made the call to charge him with manslaughter.
Breath samples taken several hours after Moffett arrived at Thursday’s shooting scene showed he had blood alcohol content levels of about .129 and .134, more than the .08 limit at which Florida law presumes impairment.
Gualtieri fired Moffett under an agency policy put in place in 2013. It requires termination for deputies arrested on a DUI charge.
Homicide detectives don’t have an on-call schedule, Gualtieri said. Instead, the agency puts out a request for them to respond when a crime is committed. If they are unable to answer the call, they can tell their supervisor they’re not available. The sheriff said Moffett told him he came anyway because he was worried that they could be short staffed because of the holidays.
Moffett had worked for the agency since March 2006. He was booked into the Pinellas County jail about and released on his own recognizance.
Eleven years before he was hired, Moffett was convicted of another DUI, the Sheriff’s Office said. He also was also arrested on a domestic violence charge in 2010, accused of grabbing the arm of his estranged wife during an argument over their impending divorce. However, prosecutors dismissed the charge.
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