Mich. Man Who Killed 19-Year-Old On Porch Charged

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The Wayne County, Mich., prosecutor charged 54-year-old Theodore Paul Wafer with murder in the second degree for the shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. McBride was shot to death on Wafer's front porch in Dearborn Heights in the early morning hours of Nov. 2. Her family says she was seeking assistance after a car accident. A toxicology report shows McBride was intoxicated at the time.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. A 54-year-old man from suburban Detroit faces charges, including second-degree murder, in the shooting death of Renisha McBride. The case has parallels to the Trayvon Martin shooting, with a white man allegedly shooting an unarmed, black teenager. But as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports, many questions remain about what happened the night McBride knocked on the defendant's door.

SARAH CWIEK, BYLINE: Here's what we know for sure: In the very early morning hours of Nov. 2nd, Renisha McBride crashed her car in Detroit. She then left the scene of the accident. According to witness reports, McBride was bloodied and disoriented. Recently released toxicology reports showed her blood alcohol level was more than twice Michigan's legal limit for driving.

Several hours later, McBride found herself on the porch of a home in the nearby suburb of Dearborn Heights. It's not clear why she was there, but her family says she was likely asking for help. Then, just before 5 o'clock in the morning, Renisha McBride was shot in the face.

(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALL)

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Dearborn Heights emergency.

THEODORE PAUL WAFER: Yes. I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun - banging on my door.

CWIEK: Police say Theodore Wafer shot McBride through his open front door, passing through a locked screen door. According to police, Wafer claims he thought McBride was breaking into his home. He's also said his shotgun went off accidentally.

KYM WORTHY: By all reports, she was unarmed; and there were no signs of forced entry to the home.

CWIEK: That's Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy, announcing murder charges today against Wafer, nearly two weeks after McBride was killed. That delay in pressing charges - and the fact that Wafer wasn't arrested immediately after the shooting - sparked an outcry here, with echoes of support across the country.

McBride's family and some civil rights activists call the shooting racial profiling. Protests grew louder as the days dragged by without an arrest. But Worthy says the extra days gave Dearborn Heights Police the chance to conduct a thorough investigation, and prosecutors time to weigh the evidence.

WORTHY: And as a result of examining everything, we have made a determination that these are the appropriate charges, and that he did not act in lawful self-defense.

CWIEK: Worthy says the charges are based solely on the evidence; that under Michigan law, McBride did not pose enough of a threat to Wafer to justify the shooting.

WORTHY: And in this case, the charging decision has nothing whatever to do with the race of the parties. Whether it becomes relevant later on in the case, I don't know. I'm not clairvoyant.

CWIEK: But that racial element already hangs over this case. Many Detroit residents - like Gerita Bailey - wonder aloud about a racial motivation, though Bailey says no one can know exactly what happened that night except Wafer and McBride.

GERITA BAILEY: And it's like, was he just afraid because of the color of her skin? Or was he - honestly afraid?

CWIEK: Wafer has been arraigned, and is being held on a $250,000 bond. He stood stoically in court this afternoon; hands clasped in front of him, only answering direct questions from the judge. Mack Carpenter is one of Wafer's attorneys. He says his client will be completely exonerated once all the facts come out.

MACK CARPENTER: Because of the time, her condition and all the circumstances.

CWIEK: Theodore Wafer's next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 18th.

For NPR news, I'm Sarah Cwiek in Detroit.

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