PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Michael Drejka, the man at the center of a Stand Your Ground case that has caught national attention, was back in court Friday for a pretrial hearing and motion hearing.
The judge tackled a big question: Should state prosecutors be able to use Drejka's prior confrontations in their case against him, or will they have to focus solely on the July 2018 shooting?
The judge decided that one past incident, which occurred just five months before the shooting, will be allowed. In that incident, Drejka confronted a driver name Richard Kelly after Kelly parked in a handicap parking space without a placard. Kelly says Drejka, who is Caucasian, used a racial slur against him, then threatened to shoot him.
The defense argued it shouldn't be allowed because anything that happened before the fatal shooting is irrelevant.
“He is blindsided and pushed to the ground. And his reasonable fear in that moment is what’s relevant nothing else leading up to that," William Flores, one of Drejka's defense attorneys said in the hearing.
The state disagrees. They argue that these past interactions are important and show how Drejka reacted under pressure.
“It kind of shows his state of mind that he thinks over an argument he can shoot somebody and in this case he got pushed," State Prosecutor Fred Schaub said.
Another incident, from 2012, won't be heard by jurors, the judge decided. That encounter involved an 18-year-old driver named Tyler Smith who says Drejka flashed a handgun out the driver's side window at him after he stopped in front of Drejka at a yellow traffic light. Drejka told a deputy he yelled and honked but did not pull a gun, according to Pinellas County records.
The judge also ruled that there will not be any mention allowed of Drejka's prior incidents with racial slurs.
Drejka's defense team doesn't want either of the past incidents brought up in the trial, but the state prosecutors do.
On July 19, 2018 Drejka shot and killed Markeis McGlockton outside of the Circle A Convenience Store in Clearwater. It stemmed from a dispute over a handicap parking spot between Drejka and McGlockton's girlfriend.
Drejka was not initially arrested because the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said he was protected under Florida's "stand your ground" law. He was later charged with manslaughter.
A person who witnessed the shooting told investigators he heard Drejka telling McGlockton's girlfriend that she couldn't park in the spot.
"I have handicap family," the witness says Drejka told her.
He said the whole thing happened in just a few seconds.