Saying that Theodore Wafer, the man who shot and killed Renisha McBride on his front porch in the early morning of Nov. 2, had other options for defending himself besides deadly force, a judge today ordered the 54-year-old Detroit man to stand trial on second-degree murder charges.
Wafer (pictured) and his lawyers do not deny that the white homeowner killed the 19-year-old African-American woman, shooting her through a screen door with a shotgun. But they say he feared for his life and made a split-second decision to defend himself.
“This court recognizes you can’t automatically penalize someone for making a bad decision when pressed to react quickly,” said Judge David Turfe. “But at the same time we can’t allow one to use a bad decision as a shield to criminal prosecution. The defendant made a bad choice when there were other reasonable opportunities.”
Wafer’s lawyer, Cheryl Carpenter, argued that under Michigan’s 2006 self-defense statute, he was allowed to kill the unarmed, disoriented woman.
“If someone is breaking into a home there is a presumption that a homeowner can use deadly force,” Carpenter told the judge. “You don’t know how many people are out there. There’s violent banging on the front door. We have a man alone in his home.”
But prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clarke scoffed at the self-defense claim, deeming it “ridiculous” that a man supposedly in fear for his life would take the time to get a shotgun, answer the door and shoot rather than simply calling 911.
“He shoved that shotgun in her face and pulled the trigger,” said the prosecutor.
Indeed, a defense expert witness, firearms expert David Balash, said that McBride would have been no more than two feet in front of the gun Wafer discharged directly at her.
About three hours before the shooting, McBride was in a severe car crash. A witness, Carmen Beasley, whose parked car was struck by McBride’s vehicle around 1 am, said that the 19-year-old was bleeding and holding her head, appearing “discombobulated” and unable to figure out where she was.
“She couldn’t find her phone. She was patting her pockets,” Beasley said. “She just kept saying she wanted to get home.”
While Beasley went inside to call for an ambulance, McBride wandered off and disappeared for the next three hours. So far, there has been no account of what she did or where she went during that interim period.
However, she turned up on Wafer’s porch sometime after 4 am. At 4:30 am, Wafer finally called the 911 emergency line, but then only to report that he had already shot a person who was “banging on my door.”
McBride had a blood-alcohol level about twice the legal limit when she died and has also been using marijuana that night. But one expert testified that intoxication combined with a possible brain injury might have made her either more aggressive than normal — or less so.
SOURCES: Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, Associated Press