ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida judge has decided not to reduce the bail of a white man charged with manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black man in a store parking lot.
Pinellas County Judge Joseph Bulone ruled Thursday that the $100,000 bail amount for Michael Drejka should stand. He called it "a fair and a reasonable bond under all the facts and circumstances of the case," since Drejka faces anywhere from 11 to 30 years in prison if convicted.
The 48-year-old Drejka said he shot 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton in self-defense in an encounter that has revived debate over Florida's "stand your ground" law.
Surveillance video shows Drejka initiating the confrontation. McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, was seated in the couple's car July 19 with two of their children, ages 3 years and 4 months when she said Drejka confronted her for being parked in a disabled-accessible space. McGlockton had gone into the store with the couple's 5-year-old son, also named Markeis.
McGlockton then came out and shoved Drejka to the pavement. Drejka then pulled a handgun and fired as McGlockton backed away.
Drejka has been in jail since he was charged Aug 13. His attorney John Trevena argued for his release, saying, "He just simply wants to go on with his life with his family." Trevena also said that Drejka was injured after years of working as a tree trimmer, and had worked as an Uber driver, but his car became inoperable.
Prosecutors argued that the bail fits the crime, and that Drejka, who has been unemployed for much of the last decade, is a flight risk. They also says he poses a threat to the community and to himself, citing four previous incidents in which Drejka either brandished a gun at someone or became angry with them over perceived traffic sleights.
During one incident where he was ticketed, prosecutors said he became upset with a woman and "brake-stopped," repeatedly braking hard to force the person behind to take evasive action. The 32-year-old woman had two children in her vehicle when she rear-ended Drejka's car.
Drejka also showed two teens his gun when he became upset that they stopped at a yellow light, and he became upset with another motorist he felt was driving too slow in a school zone.
In another instance, Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub said, Drejka confronted another man at the same convenience store about parking his septic truck in the same disabled-accessible space, which isn't even in a legal spot according to state specifications.
"He was confronted by the owner of that business who told him he had to stop," said Schaub.
He added that Drejka had a response: "I know I can't help myself, I keep getting myself in trouble."
Trevena said his client told him all these incidents were 'grossly exaggerated or outright fiction. We'll address those in detail as the case develops."
Drejka's family issued a statement through a spokesperson Thursday afternoon.
"We knew that we would likely be denied, but we had to try. We have been approached by political groups, film producers and others with clear agendas to help us with this matter, but we cannot accept it," the statement read. "While we want Michael home to prepare his defense, we do not want to do it in any fashion that would be disrespectful to the community or any of the families involved in this case. To that end, we are taking donations from private individuals only, directed to an account controlled solely by the family."
Trevena said it's unclear at this point whether he'll seek an immunity hearing, which is the first step for a "stand your ground" defense.
"That may depend on trial strategy," he said. "We might just take it to a jury."