What makes Michael Drejka tick?
Suddenly, the psychology of the man who pulled the trigger and fatally wounded Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot dispute over a handicap space is a national obsession. In some ways, Drejka is a walking contradiction.
The owner of the convenience store knows Drejka as a frequent customer and for the most part, a regular guy.
“He’s a quiet guy. he comes in, he buys his drink, ‘hi how you doing,’ and he leaves,” said Ali Salous.
But a truck driver, who says two months ago he got into a dispute over the same handicap space that lead to Thursday’s fatal shooting, saw a hateful side of Drejka.
“He was basically threatening to shoot me that day,” said Richard Kelly. “But I didn’t think nothing of it. I mean like he called me the ‘n’ word and stuff like that.”
Public records show Drejka, age 48, was born in Delaware and moved to Pinellas County about eight years ago where he got married.
It’s not clear if he currently lives with his wife but does share a tidy looking rental home with at least two dogs on the outskirts of Dunedin. His landlord lives next door.
Despite his apparent zero tolerance for handicap parking violations, Drejka has a number of violations on his own driving record for speeding, running red lights, driving without insurance or a motorcycle endorsement.
Kelly says during his dispute, Drejka gave a hint of why he’s so obsessed with handicap violations.
“He was like, ‘you need to move out of the handicap. My mom’s handicap,’” Kelly said.
Despite Salous’ perception of Drejka as a quiet man, he’s had documented fits of temper before.
Seven years ago a sheriff’s report included allegations by two teenagers that Drejka flashed a handgun at them during a road rage incident. Deputies found a gun in Drejka’s car, but he flatly denied brandishing it at the teens.
Pinellas prosecutors will soon decide whether Drejka acted out of anger or fear when he shot McGlockton, a decision that could free him from the threat of criminal charges or possibly send him to prison for life.
Much of that decision hangs on the video that shows McGlockton shoving Drejka to the ground and Drejka taking aim and shooting McGlockton seconds later.
Prosecutors also say the words they exchanged will also play a role in the determination of whether this is a valid Stand Your Ground Case.
Meanwhile, countless people who have seen the shooting video are already weighing in with their own thoughts in the court of public opinion.
“I think he’s a hothead looking for a fight. That’s my opinion,” said Charla Chop, who frequents the convenience store where the shooting occurred.
“Sometimes it doesn’t take much to get people to the red line,” said another customer, Mary Duffy.
“Kids shove each other on the playground that is not an excuse to shoot somebody, that’s insane.”