Michigan homeowner charged in racially fraught fatal porch shooting

A Michigan homeowner today was charged with murder in the racially fraught death of Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old black woman who was shot in the face on his porch.

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said Friday that Theodore P. Wafer, 54, of Dearborn Heights, faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of McBride in the early morning hours of Nov. 2.

Wafer, who will also face a weapons charge, is expected to turn himself in to authorities and could be arraigned as early as Friday.

In recent days, Wafer’s attorney had called the shooting justified, but Worthy said prosecutors disagreed.

“These are the appropriate charges and he did not act in lawful self-defense,” Worthy said at a televised news conference.


The McBride family and civil rights supporters had called for an investigation into the woman’s death at the hands of a white man, and some supporters have compared it to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager shot by George Zimmerman last year in a confrontation in Sanford, Fla. A jury acquitted Zimmerman of murder charges in that case, accepting that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense.

The cases are not exactly parallel since Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who was off-duty, argued that he saw Martin on a public street and that the two had a confrontation during which Zimmerman said he was injured. Zimmerman said the pair grappled and he fired his gun at Martin during their fight.

In the McBride case, there has been no indication that the pair had physical contact. McBride’s family has said the woman was involved in a car accident and walked to Wafer’s home seeking help. She went on to the porch and Wafer fired a shotgun blast at her.

Under Michigan law, a person does not have to retreat into his home when confronted, Worthy told reporters, but for a shooting to be self-defense, “there has to be an honest and reasonable belief of death or grave bodily harm.”

Worthy said there is no indication that standard was met. She said evidence showed McBride knocked on the locked screen door, and that there was no evidence of forced entry.

Despite protests and calls by national civil rights leaders that the incident be investigated, Worthy insisted her office had acted without regard to the race of either party. “Race is not relevant to our charging decision.”

An autopsy released this week ruled McBride died of a gunshot wound to her face, meaning she was facing the homeowner when he fired. A toxicology report released Thursday showed she had alcohol and marijuana in her system.


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