Michigan man charged in porch shooting will face trial

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 19, 2013 11:29 AM
Michigan man charged in porch shooting will face trial

(Reuters) - A white suburban Detroit homeowner will stand trial on charges of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a young black woman who knocked on his door in the middle of the night in November, a Michigan judge said on Thursday.

Prosecutors presented sufficient evidence for Theodore Wafer, 54, to stand trial on charges that he killed Renisha McBride, 19, in the early morning hours of November 2, Wayne County District Court Judge David Turfe said.

The racially charged case in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, triggered protests that attracted national attention and drew comparisons to the 2012 shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Turfe said Wafer had other options available to him when he went to his front door that night.

"The defendant came to the door with a shotgun," Turfe said. "His first thought was to bring the gun, not call for help or not answer the door."

He also ordered Wafer to stand trial on manslaughter and a firearms charge.

The woman was killed by a single shotgun blast to the face after she went to Wafer's house at about 4:30 a.m. apparently seeking help after a car crash.

Wafer called 911 to report the incident and told police he fired the fatal shot, but that it was accidental. At a preliminary hearing, defense attorneys argued in part that the second-degree murder charge should be dismissed based on the grounds that he was acting in self-defense.

Turfe ordered the trial after a preliminary examination where prosecutors presented witnesses to sketch out McBride's final hours and death and defense attorneys sought to build a case that Wafer feared for his life at that early hour.

"This court recognizes that we can't automatically penalize one for making a bad decision when pressed to react quickly," Turfe said of Wafer. "But at the same time, we can't allow one to use the bad decision as a shield to criminal prosecution."

McBride had a blood alcohol content nearly three-times the legal limit for driving in Michigan, and marijuana in her system when she died, Dr. Kilak Kesha, a Wayne County medical examiner, testified in the hearing.

She had apparently crashed a car into a parked car hours before the shooting, and a woman who called 911 operators to report the crash said McBride appeared confused, intoxicated and injured, but not combative, the judge said of the testimony in the examination.

A co-worker and a friend also testified that McBride was not a belligerent person, Turfe said.

Wafer has worked in maintenance at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport for about 10 years and takes care of his 81-year-old mother, according to his attorneys.

Some speakers at a demonstration outside the Dearborn Heights police station had likened McBride's death to that of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead last year in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

Race was not raised as an issue during the preliminary examination.

The judge said Wafer's arraignment was scheduled for January 15 and ordered his bond continued.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone, James Dalgleish, Leslie Gevirtz and Gunna Dickson)