Our own 10News Anchor Reginald Roundtree sat down with Michael Drejka for his first on-camera interview since the fatal Clearwater convenience store shooting that reignited the 'Stand Your Ground' law.
The following is the full transcript of the exclusive interview:
Roundtree: Mr. Drejka, Reginald Roundtree, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me.
Drejka: Thank you.
Roundtree: Have a seat there. My photographer will help you get that situated on you (referencing the mic).
Rountree: What I’d like to do is for you to take a couple breaths and I know this is uh, a stressful time for you, and I just want you to be totally calm and relaxed, I’m just uh, here to talk to you, to find out who you are. You know, I’ve talked with your defense team and I kept asking, I says, we don’t know anything about you. You’re not on Facebook, you’re not on Twitter, you have no digital footprint.
[Drejka shakes head during Facebook, Twitter, social footprint comment]
Roundtree: I mean, I know you cut trees, I know that part. [Drejka shakes head again]
Drejka: For a time, yeah.
Roundtree: For a time, ok. But the main thing is that I would like to, for you to talk with me about who you are, where you came from, if you like the Bucs or the Jaguars, if you like vanilla or chocolate, I just want you to tell me about yourself.
Drejka: Ok. I’m pretty much your normal, average, everyday person with average problems, I would suppose. Uh, I don’t know what everybody else’s problems are, but uh, you know, we’ve got, uh, I’ve got money troubles, you know, we’ve got uh, moving troubles, but uh, other than that, everything.
Roundtree: Now are you originally from Delaware?
Drejka: Yes sir.
Roundtree: I’ve never met anybody from Delaware. [Drejka nods head]
Roundtree: How was your, how was your childhood growing up there? How many years did you stay there?
Drejka: Oh I was, my whole childhood and into my adult years. I was born and raised in and bled and bred in there, you know.
Roundtree: Right. So what brought you down to the Bay area?
Drejka: Well, my mom died about ten years ago and uh, left me with a little bit and it was able to uh, sustain me for a little while. As far as the tree business goes, it chews you up and spits you out.
Roundtree: Exactly. It’s tough work.
Drejka : Yeah. Just like your vehicle and anything else, it uh, once you’re done with, they cut you off and throw you away, so yeah, you want to get out of that as quick as you can normally. Uh, it gave me a little freedom to move about and, being here before around hurricanes, doing a lot of work, this is where I chose.
Roundtree: You and your wife love the area?
Drejka: Love it. Yeah, there, there’s, it’s just one of the best places I’ve ever been able to settle down in, as far as the people and where I lived at, uhm, this is one of the places I’ve stayed in the longest in my entire life.
Drejka: Once again because of the people and the area of where I was at.
Roundtree: Right. Now the, uh, just speaking about your wife and hardships. You’re facing some real tough financial times 'cause I’ve gotten word that, I guess the landlord wants her to move out. You got some financial issues going.
Drejka: Yeah, it’s his house and, and being fair about it, he informed us awhile back, as far as the year goes, that he would be folding that house back into his business and no longer renting it out to anybody, so we were aware, just not sure of a date. Turns out, the date was August 31st, and uh, which is the time she was supposed to be out of the house.
Drejka: We’ve been given a slight grace period I think, for now, but uh, that’s not going to last long.
Roundtree: Your time in here has been tough on you.
Roundtree: Yeah. What do you think about?
Drejka: Everything and anything, uh, and then I don’t want to think about everything and anything too 'cause there’s nothing I can do from here.
Drejka: For, for anybody.
Roundtree: Right. And you’re worried about your wife and her welfare.
Drejka: Financially and uh, physically, yes. She’s unable to move out of the house financially and she’s unable to do it by herself. So, she’s kind of stuck – without me.
Roundtree; Right. Makes you feel helpless.
Drejka: Oh yeah.
Roundtree: This case I would think is probably, has been very stressful on her, too.
Drejka: Yeah, everything about it, uh, it hasn’t made anything easier as far as anything goes. It’s totally new for everybody involved I would say and uh, the threats and, and words –
Roundtree: - She’s actually facing threats out –
Drejka: Yes. Yes. [Nods head] Very much so. From, from day one.
Drejka: So, I can’t be there to do anything.
Roundtree: I mean, You’re here and, and you’re facing what you face, there’s not much you can do.
Roundtree: Take me back to, I’m going to call it, that day. What kind of morning did you have July 19th? Were you working, walking the dogs, were ya –
Drejka: I don’t really think this is where to go into specifics about that day.
Roundtree: Well, I wasn’t talking about the actual incident of the shooting, I was just saying what your day was like. A cup of coffee,
Drejka: Normal, everyday day really. Nothing really –
Roundtree: Saw the wife off to work?
Drejka: Yeah, nothing too surprising out of any of it. Uh, [pauses for a breath] My days are my own pretty much these days, you know, and I’ve been concentrating on packing, and getting everything else down, trying to get out of the house. [nods head]
Roundtree: Right, right. You know everybody, everybody involved in this case, a lot of people involved in this case have spoken up, the sheriff has spoken out, the prosecution has spoken out, uhm, the McGlockton’s have spoken out, Al Sharpton has spoken out, and we felt that it was necessary to hear from the person at the center of this case.
Roundtree: The McGlockton’s have been very, very hard and descriptive about you as a person. Is there something that you could say to them that might give some clarity about who you are or how you feel?
Drejka: I really don’t think this is the place to talk to the family directly. You know, it just doesn’t seem good.
Roundtree: Well you’ve avoided interviews because you didn’t want to –
Drejka: I don’t like to spotlight, I never have. You know, just concentrating on trying to get some support for my wife, it’s a little tough to do from here.
Roundtree: How are you, is there an avenue that you’re following or trying to do to help her that we don’t know about, or -?
Drejka: No, sir. Not that I’m aware of. I don’t have any avenues really. I’m stuck asking for help from everybody, and anybody, really can. I would like to plead for that because she hasn’t done anything. You know, she goes to work every day and she still has her job and is trying to help me all the whole way. Now she’s looking to be on the street all alone.
Drejka: With my dogs. [nervous laughter]
Roundtree: How many dogs do you have?
Roundtree: What kind are they?
Drejka: German Shepards.
[Deep breath and sad eyes]
Roundtree: It seems like this is striking a chord with you.
Drejka: Yeah, it does. [chokes up] I miss my girls. Miss my girls. That’s all. All of ‘em.
Roundtree: Is there anything in your mind that would change now that you have a chance to look back, is there anything that you would change with what happened or how it happened, is there anything that you would change or, I’m sure you’ve had time to think about this.
Drejka: Uh, sure, I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, but as far as changing anything, events, is what you’re asking, I don’t see – no, not off the top of my head.
Roundtree: Would you like some water?
Drejka: No, no thank you.
Roundtree: You’ve uh, we’ve checked and you have no criminal history here. [Drejka shakes head] None.
Drejka: No sir.
Roundtree: You’ve had one or two run-ins, but you’ve never been arrested or charged with a crime or anything.
Drejka: I’m on the road a lot. You know, being on the road a lot, you – lots of things happen along the road, you know. So, traffic infractions –
Roundtree: Oh, I know it. I totally understand. But one or two – one of the cases, and this is coming from people that have come down to speak about the event and things of that nature, and they get the feeling that there might be a racial overtone to this incident.
No, there’s almost no way that uhm, number one, my upbringing, really, prevents that from coming out of me ever, uh – my parents weren’t that way. You know, it was always try to get along with everybody, green eggs and ham, you know. Everybody’s different and I grew up during desegregation, not segregation. Ok, so it’s not like, uh, you know, I was sheltered from other cultures or races, you know, from a very young age.
Drejka: Uh, and my professionalism beyond that prevents me from saying stuff like that anyway.
Roundtree: So I can look you in the eye right now and ask you if you are racist, what would be your answer?
Drejka: No. There’s – no. [shaking head]
Roundtree: You do not hate black people?
Drejka: I do not hate anybody. You know, I don’t see, you know, to break it down into, you know, a person or anything, but that’s what’s happened. Ok? That’s what it’s become. Something that was one thing has become something else. And that is mostly in the eyes of the beholders.
[shrugs shoulders] Drejka: I -I don’t see how it can be any other way.
Roundtree: The McGlockton’s have a very tough view of you.
Drejka: So I’ve heard.
Roundtree: And if you had a chance to offer some type of remorse or some thoughtful thing to say to them, would you take that chance and what would you say?
Drejka: I don’t really think this is the place to address them directly.
Roundtree: But in your heart though.
Drejka: I’m sorry. [wide eyes] That’s all I can really say to them and uh, thinking about it, would you accept those kind of words from someone, I don’t think I would. You know, just to, uh, I think there’s too much hate already to, uh, for me to be able to say anything that would make any kind of difference.
Roundtree: Can I be honest with you?
Roundtree: You don’t strike me as a very violent kind of person.
Drejka: I don’t wrestle, no.
Roundtree: I’m just, I’m just talking with you, and going by what I feel, being transparent with you.
Roundtree: But you also strike me as a person that, that might get angry.
Drejka: Everybody’s got a temper, I suppose.
Roundtree: Right. About certain things?
Drejka: Uh, sure, pet peeves. About this, that, and the other. Uh, obviously the one at the whole center of this whole situation these days happens to be the uh, handicapped parking spot.
Roundtree: What is it about handicapped parking spots? Did you have someone in your family or someone that –
Drejka: My high school sweetheart and I were together for a long time. Ok, uh –
Roundtree: What was her name?
Drejka: Uh, I’d rather leave that. Yeah, she’s, she’s deceased now and there’s no real reason to dredge her into this. But, uh, from uh, from 16 on, she was, at 16 she was involved in an accident that left her pretty much handicapped for the rest of her life, many surgeries to follow, and so on and so forth. [Deep breath]
Drejka: Uh, and these days my mother-in-law is handicapped. So it’s always been a hotbed for me. It’s always, uh, my whole life I’ve always been looking for a handicapped parking spot.
Drejka: You know, it’s always touched a nerve with me – the way they’re abused and used [nods head].
Roundtree: Abused and used?
Drejka: Yeah, the parking spots, the way they’re used and abused.
Roundtree: I mean, I thought to myself when I first got ahold of this case I said there’s something about, I mean, there’s got to be family or someone involved that this is a hot button for you. Everybody’s got hot buttons, but this one is certainly one for you, and uh, it’s almost like you, you just, just something that you can not stand happen in front of you.
Drejka: Well, no, of course not. And I don’t usually confront people about it either. And such as, was in this case, I did not confront anyone, I was confronted and I answered. Which is, how I think the argument started between, uh, the woman and I.
Roundtree: That push, that shove, did it stun you?
Drejka: Didn’t know it was a shove. Thought I was tackled. It felt like I was tackled or someone hit me from behind with something. I left my feet, slid along the ground, before I was able to – yes, I was stunned, yeah. [wide eyes, nodding head]
Drejka: There’s – it seems a little more than that, but uhm, stunned is a good word I suppose.
Roundtree: Here’s the 54-million dollar question, cuz no one else was there, but you [Drejka nods] were you in fear for your life?
Drejka: Yes sir. It was only one other person that was making a move and that move was towards me – and, coming off of a – what I just got up to – I was, uh, I didn’t know what was coming for me and there’s only one way to look at that. You have to be scared for it, cuz if you’re not, [deep breath] you’re wrong, you’re wrong. And that’s that.
So yeah, I was very scared, I’ve never been confronted like that, or never been assaulted like that if you will, ever. You know, I’m not a physical person to begin with, I don’t wrestle with people, I don’t, uh, push and shove with my friends, there’s none of that that goes on in my life, so I’m a very hands-off type of person.
Roundtree: Early on after the incident at the convenient store, the Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri backed you, refused to arrest you, said you were on solid ground with the way he viewed the law. When you heard that news, how did you feel about the case?
Roundtree: You felt vindicated?
Drejka: Yes sir.
Roundtree: If the Pinellas County Sheriff says I can’t arrest him because he followed the law, you thought you were fine.
Drejka : I followed the law the way I felt the law was supposed to be followed. I cleared every hurdle that that law had to, had to put in front of me.
Drejka: And uh, yeah I, I – I did feel vindicated after those statements.
Roundtree: Then we come along to all the protests, people speaking out, and then the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office files manslaughter charges, what did you, when you first heard that, what did you think?
Drejka: Uh, number one, shocked. Number two, devastated, because I didn’t hear about it until they were putting handcuffs on me. So uh, other than that, uh, a little angry I suppose.
Roundtree: Did you drive yourself to uh –
Drejka: Oh, yes sir.
Roundtree: You turned yourself in?
Drejka: No sir. They lied to me and uh, under, under the guise of returning my property, requested me to show up at the, uh, sheriff’s office.
Drejka: To talk to the original detectives.
Roundtree: Who in turn were prepared to –
Drejka: To arrest me [nods].
Roundtree: To arrest you.
Roundtree: So, you had no idea you were about to be placed under arrest? [Drejka shakes head no]
Drejka: No sir.
Roundtree: Where were you staying, I mean, it’s a mute point now, but, where were you staying in between, were you at your house?
Drejka: We had no choice, we had to stay there.
Roundtree: Yeah –
Drejka: And the nights, the nights as far as the protests go and stuff, we were warned by the, uh, by the police department and we did vacate the house on that evening, yeah.
Roundtree: Right. Did uh, any police department take you anywhere else for your safety?
Drejka: No, they suggested we leave for our safety, and they also suggested we watch our backs. And that’s, that’s what we were doing so.
Roundtree: How does Michael Drejka hold himself together through all of this?
Drejka: I don’t know. Uh, [pause] sheer will right now. [shrugs] I- I don’t have anything else. [nervous smile]
Drejka: Nobody to hold me together. So, it’s my wife I’m worried about.
Drejka: I don’t need any of the spotlight, I need to get – it’s my wife and dogs, well my kids really, [nervous laughter] I need to get ‘em safe. Out of the house.
Roundtree: Take a breath.
Roundtree: I didn’t live too far from uh, the store location. I used to live on Edgewater Drive. It was just three or four blocks down that way, so, I used to always go to that store.
Drejka: It’s a great store.
Roundtree: And I don’t know if you remember, there used to be a little [indescribable]
Drejka: Yep, up until maybe about a year ago. And they only moved maybe not too far away, they’re still in the area.
Roundtree: I’ll just ask you one last question just to clear up, to clear up the uhm, I was talking about some of the previous, uh, events or altercations, which you never were arrested or charged with anything. One of those – uhm, involved at the store. Uh, the guy driving the supply truck where he claimed that you used the ‘N’ word against him and that’s why people are thinking this might be racially motivated. Please clear this up, are you racist or not?
[Drejka shakes his head]
Drejka: No sir. Uhm, not by any means. Uh, I’ve worked with too many people, met too many people in my life to be that kind of person. There’s, there’s no way to survive really, by being like that. It doesn’t help anyone, you know, and to have a, that kind of feeling about an entire race of people seems foreign to me. Why, how could that happen? But uh, as far as the incident with the gentleman there, uh, and that claim, I, the claim is totally false. Uh, uh, I wouldn’t have used that word, especially while confronting someone about something like that. You know, he had the name of his company on the side of the truck and uh, he was an easy target, you know, for my pet peeve that day, so uh, why would I mess that up by uh, throwing that word in, you know? It doesn’t make sense to me other than wanting spotlight for himself or wanting to turn people against me as it is.
Drejka: I don’t have too many friends, so there’s not a whole lot of people that know me. But everyone who does will dispute that to the end.
Roundtree: Are you a strong supporter of, of, gun rights? Second amendment rights?
Drejka: I’m a strong supporter of second amendment rights in the fact that everybody deserves to feel secure in their person, no matter where they go, what they’re doing, as long as they’re there. Uh, legally, of course. So yeah, I guess you can say I’m a big supporter of the second amendment I suppose.
Drejka: Not overtly, you know, I’m not outspoken about it, but uh, you know, in my heart.
Roundtree: Thank you, sir.
Drejka: Thank you, sir.
Roundtree: Good luck to you.
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