The girlfriend of a black man gunned down in a Florida parking lot last week says that not only was her boyfriend just coming to her defense in a heated dispute, but that the gunman “wanted someone to be angry at.”
Regulars at the convenience store in Clearwater, Fla.,—including its owner—say that the gunman, Michael Drejka, was known for harassing people over parking spaces.
In an interview with Good Morning America on Monday morning, Britany Jacobs described Drejka’s demeanor as he came up to her car on July 19. Jacobs was parked in a handicap parking space, waiting for her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, and her son to purchase some snacks at the Circle A Food Store. Her two young children, an infant and a three-year-old, were in the back of the car.
“He wanted somebody to be angry at. He just wanted someone to fight him,” Jacobs said of Drejka. “He was picking a fight. I’m just sitting, waiting for my family to come back to the car.”
Jacobs said she grew fearful as the fight escalated.
“By this time a witness pulls up and everybody hears us going back and forth with one another. ... A witness goes in the store and he let the owner know that there was somebody out there messing with a woman in a car,” Jacobs told GMA.
“My man hears what’s going on, sees the guy yelling at me and I’m sitting in the car. My man is defending me and his children, so he pushes him down.”
Surveillance footage shows McGlockton clearly backed away from Drejka after the shove. As he sits up, Drejka raises his arms, gun in hand, and points the weapon at McGlockton. As McGlockton steps back, Drejka fires at his chest. McGlockton then runs back inside the store, where Jacobs’ five-year-old son is, to ask for help. The unarmed man collapses as he reaches the register.
“Everybody is panicking ... my son is screaming, but it was too late,” Jacobs said. “It’s hard for a four- or five-year-old to witness what he saw. ... It’s really tough for him.”
The attack made national headlines for its senselessness, but also for the fact that Pinellas County police will not press charges against Drejka, citing Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which protects Drejka on the basis that he supposedly needed to defend his life.
The law is most notorious for initially shielding George Zimmerman from charges when he gunned down 17-year-old Trayvon Martin as he was walking in his neighborhood. It wasn’t applied, however, to Marissa Alexander, a black woman whose own invocation of the “Stand Your Ground” shield was denied in 2011. Alexander was instead charged with aggravated assault after firing a warning shot at her husband, who had a history of abusing her.
The owner of Circle A Food Store and other customers told GMA that Drejka had a history of harassing other people over parking spaces. One unidentified black customer told ABC that Drejka had threatened to shoot him over a parking space before. The store owner also told reporters that he had to call the police on Drejka before for getting into arguments with other customers about parking.
“For a parking lot. For a stupid reason? Just to argue?” the owner said.
While Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the law is on Drejka’s side, he also told Fox News 6 the case will now go to the office of Florida state attorney, Pam Bondi, which could still press charges against Drejka.