Michael Drejka, the Florida man who shot dead Markeis McGlockton after McGlockton shoved him, said he feared for his life during the parking lot altercation.
"I was very scared. I've never been confronted like that, never been assaulted like that, if you will, ever," Drejka said in a recent jailhouse interview.
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Drejka fatally shot McGlockton after an argument with McGlockton's girlfriend over a handicapped parking space in July. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially declined to arrest Drejka, citing the state's "stand your ground" law. But Pinellas and Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe charged Drejka with manslaughter in August.
Drejka's interview last Friday with WTSP were his first public comments since his arrest. The sheriff's office released video of the interview over the weekend.
During the nearly 30-minute interview, Drejka said he believed he followed the "stand your ground" law and felt "vindicated" when Gualtieri initially didn't charge him. Drejka, who is white, seemed to express little remorse for fatally shooting McGlockton, who is black, and denied being a racist.
The altercation with McGlockton left him feeling stunned, like he had been tackled -- not shoved -- in the Clearwater parking lot, Drejka said.
Drejka said he "didn't know it was a shove."
"It felt like I was tackled, or someone hit me from behind with something. I left my feet, and slid along the ground," Drejka, 48, said in the interview.
Drejka's comments echoed what he told authorities, according to a copy of his criminal complaint.
Drejka, who has pleaded not guilty, was being held in the Pinellas County Jail. The sheriff's office said bail has been set at $100,000.
McGlockton, 28, died July 19 after the altercation between the two men. McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, had parked in the handicapped space and Drejka confronted her while McGlockton was in a store.
McGlockton came outside, approached Drejka and shoved him to the ground, surveillance video shows. Drejka pulled out a handgun and, as McGlockton backed away from him, shot him in the chest.
According to the criminal complaint, Drejka said McGlockton tackled him and he was afraid during the incident and fired in self-defense. But a detective wrote that Drejka was more than 10 feet away from McGlockton when he opened fire.
Drejka said he becomes frustrated when he sees people misuse handicapped parking spaces. A high school sweetheart, who is now deceased, became handicapped after an accident as a teenager, Drejka said. His mother-in-law is handicapped, too, he said.
"It's always touched a nerve with me ... the way they're abused and used," he said.
When asked if there is anything he would change about that day, Drejka said he didn't see anything he would change.
Drejka initially declined to address McGlockton's family directly when asked if there was anything he wanted to say to them.
"I really don't think this is the right place to talk to the family directly," he said.
Later in the interview, Drejka apologized to McGlockton's family.
"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," he said. "I think there's too much hate already ... for me to be able to say anything that would make any kind of difference," he said.
McGlockton's father said his son was rightly standing up for his family and that there's no way the shooting could be justified.
"If you push a man down to the ground, that man does not deserve to be shot. Stand up and fight with your fists," Michael McGlockton said before Drejka was charged.
McGlockton's family has said Drejka "killed Markeis in cold blood without a second thought about the devastating impact his actions would have on our family," according to a statement released after Drejka was charged.
The family believed the manslaughter charge was appropriate, the family's attorney Michele Rayner said then.
Florida's "stand your ground law," which is perhaps the strongest in the country, grants immunity to the person acting in self-defense. The state has to prove that a shooter didn't act in self-defense and is therefore not entitled to immunity.
Gualtieri's initial decision not to file charges caused critics to question whether the sheriff was correctly interpreting the law.
Drejka said he was "shocked" and "devasted' when prosecutors charged him.
"I followed the law the way I felt the law was supposed to be followed. I cleared every hurdle that that law had," Drejka said.