Opening statements begin for Michigan man accused in teenager's death

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 23, 2014 7:07 AM

(Reuters) - A white suburban Detroit homeowner's shooting of a black teenager who had been knocking on his door was "unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable," a prosecutor told jurors at the start of the homeowner's murder trial on Wednesday.

Theodore Wafer, 55, shot Renisha McBride after she knocked on the door seeking help early one November morning. Wafer faces a second-degree murder charge and up to life in prison. “Because of what he did that night, a 19-year-old girl is dead on a porch in Dearborn Heights,” said Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark, according to the Detroit Free-Press.

Opening statements and testimony began on Wednesday in the racially charged case, which has sparked protests in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, and comparisons to the 2012 shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Wafer, an airport maintenance worker who cares for his elderly mother, told police after the shooting that he believed McBride was breaking into his home and that his shotgun went off accidentally, blasting through a closed screen door. [ID:nL2N0J00Z4]

Hagaman-Clark on Wednesday played jurors a 911 call Wafer made after shooting McBride.

On the call, Wafer can be heard telling the dispatcher, "Uh yes, I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun, banging on my door," and then he said "thank you" and hung up when the dispatcher asked what city he was in.

McBride's best friend, Amber Jenkins, testified on Wednesday that the evening before the shooting, they had shared three marijuana cigarettes and played a card game in which the loser had to down vodka shots. McBride had been losing the game, Jenkins said.

McBride had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit for driving in Michigan when she died and had crashed a car hours before, according to witnesses who testified for prosecutors at a preliminary examination.

A woman who reported the crash had testified that McBride appeared confused and injured, not combative.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Eric Beech)