Homeowner charged with murder and manslaughter in Detroit woman’s shooting death

By Travis Gettys
Friday, November 15, 2013 11:12 EDT
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Renisha McBride
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A man who fatally shot a Detroit woman who crashed her car near his Dearborn Heights home has been charged in her death.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said 54-year-old Theodore Wafer has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.

Wafer had said he believed the woman was trying to break into his home about 3:40 a.m. Nov. 2.

McBride’s family believes she may have been seeking assistance following her crash into a parked car about an hour earlier when she knocked on Wafer’s shut and locked screen door.

McBride was killed by a shotgun blast to the face, which the prosecutor said was fired through the closed screen, and the homeowner claimed the gun discharged accidentally.

According to dispatch records, Wafer waited about an hour to call 911 to report that he’d shot someone on his front porch.

Toxicology reports released Thursday by the Wayne County medical examiner’s office showed McBride’s blood-alcohol level at the time of her death was 0.218, ten times higher than what’s permitted for drivers younger than 21, and marijuana was also detected.

But Dr. Werner Spitz, the longtime Wayne County medical examiner and one of the preeminent experts in forensic pathology, reviewed the report and said that the level of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana, was low enough to suggest that she hadn’t used it the day of her death.

The shooting of McBride, who is black, prompted comparisons to the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was not initially charged in the case because he’d claimed self-defense and was eventually acquitted on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges filed by a special prosecutor appointed by Florida’s governor.

Worthy pointedly declined to compare the cases, saying she focused only on Michigan law and ignored public pressure to file charges against Wafer.

The prosecutor told reporters that she had not spoken to Wafer and did not know his race, but an attorney for the McBride family said he believed the man was white.

She said Michigan law requires an “imminent and reasonable belief” of imminent death or great bodily harm to successfully claim self-defense.

Michigan does not obligate a person to retreat from any place they have a legal right to be as long as those same conditions of self-defense are met.

Worthy grew irritated by a reporter’s question about whether McBride had been wearing a hooded sweatshirt, like Martin had been, when she was killed.

“That sounds to me like and attempt to compare this to another case, and I’m not going to do that,” Worthy said.

Wafer is expected to turn himself in Friday afternoon to police.

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