It was only a matter of time before the infamous “I feared for my life” came popping up as justification for shooting and killing a black man, and Michael Drejka’s iteration of the excuse is unsurprising.
On Friday, in a jailhouse interview, Drejka spoke out for the first time after he fatally shot Markeis McGlockton over a handicapped parking space in a confrontation that sparked nationwide protests and debates about Florida’s “stand your ground” law, telling interviewers about his life struggles and how much he feared for his life.
“I was very scared. I’ve never been confronted like that, never been assaulted like that, if you will, ever,” he told WTSP.
In the 20-minute interview, Drejka said that parking spots for those with disabilities are a hot button for him. His high school sweetheart, who is now dead, became handicapped after an accident during her teen years. His mother-in-law is also handicapped.
“My whole life, I’ve always been looking for a handicapped parking spot,” he said. “You know, it’s always touched a nerve with me, the way they’re abused and used.”
It strikes such a nerve that he is known in the community for harassing people over parking spots.
Drejka killed McGlockton, 28, on July 19, following a confrontation over a handicapped parking space. McGlockton’s girlfriend had parked in the space as he ran into the store. Drejka saw her minding her own business in the spot and decided to confront her.
McGlockton came outside mid-confrontation and pushed Drejka to the ground. Drejka sat up, raising his arm with his gun already pulled. McGlockton is seen on surveillance video taking a step back from the brandished weapon, but Drejka fired the gun anyway, striking the young father.
“It felt like I was tackled, or someone hit me from behind with something. I left my feet, and slid along the ground,” Drejka, who is 48, told the news station.
Initially, the case sparked uproar because Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to even arrest Drejka, claiming the case was “within the bookends of ‘stand your ground’ and within the bookends of force being justified.”
Drejka said that made him feel “vindicated” at first.
“I followed the law the way I thought the law was supposed to be followed,” he said. “I cleared every hurdle that that law had.”
When prosecutors went ahead and decided to charge him with manslaughter, he said he was “shocked” and “devastated.”
“I didn’t hear about it until they were putting handcuffs on me,” he said.
During the interview, when asked if there is something he would like to say to McGlockton’s family, Drejka initially declined.
“I really don’t think this is the right place to talk to the family directly,” he said.
However later when prompted again, he said, “I’m sorry. That’s all I can really say to them. ...Thinking about it, would you accept those kinds of words from someone? I don’t think I would. I think there’s too much hate already ... for me to be able to say anything that would make any kind of difference.”
I can’t imagine why there would be so much hate at all.
Drejka is being held in the Pinellas County Jail on $100,000 bond.