Would you be afraid enough to shoot without looking to see who it was first if someone was pounding on your door at 4 am?
Michigan Man Claims He Shot Black Teen On His Porch Because He Feared For His Life
The trial is underway for Theodore Wafer, a white suburban homeowner who shot 19-year-old McBride in the face as she sought help on his porch and he’s hoping the jury will sympathize with his fearfulness.
Defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter on Wednesday appealed to a Detroit jury to “understand how Ted felt” before he shot an unarmed black teen on his porch last fall.
“He was acting and reacting to escalating fear,” Carpenter said in her opening statement about Theodore Wafer, 55, on trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Renisha McBride.
“He had never been so scared in his entire life. It’s horrible and it’s sad that a 19-year-old woman is dead. But Ted is justified in what he did.”
Whether it was reasonable for Wafer to think his house was under attack is the key question the jury must weigh as this galvanizing, racially charged trial proceeds in Detroit. Wafer is white and lives in the mostly white Detroit border city of Dearborn Heights. He killed McBride in the early hours of Nov. 2, when, he says, she was banging on his door.
To the prosecution, this is a straightforward case of a trigger-happy homeowner who opened the front door and shot McBride rather than, if he was truly afraid, calling 911. He called 911 after the shooting occurred.
“There was no sign of any attempted burglary, there’s no evidence of any effort to breaking in,” said prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark in her opening remarks. “His actions that night are unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable. Because of that, a 19-year-old girl is dead on a porch in Dearborn Heights.
Would you have called 911 first?
The defense attorney is already doing a “bang up” job describing Wafer’s state of mind before he pulled the trigger:
Carpenter said Wafer was fast asleep in a recliner in his living room when, at around 4:20 a.m., someone banged on his door. Fearful, he lay on the floor and groped for his cellphone but could not find it.
Over the subsequent minutes he panicked, believing his home was under siege by possibly more than one attacker and asserting he heard metal in the front door frame “breaking.”
“They’re coming to get me,” Carpenter said, narrating Wafer’s thoughts in the moment. “It’s metal breaking. Breaking! On his front door. Ted hears it. Ted is thinking they’re coming in. They’re breaking [into] my house. Why? He doesn’t have a clue. He just knows they’re coming in.”
Carpenter sought to defuse the racial elements of the case by insisting that Wafer didn’t know the color or gender of the person when he shot her. All he knew, she said, was that he opened his front door, noticed the screen frame a few inches out of its hinge and then fired the gun when McBride leaped onto the stoop, startling him.
“Ted is shattered,” Carpenter said. “He knows immediately that he killed somebody … It was only after that he saw it was a shorter person. She seemed dark-complected but he isn’t sure. He didn’t know anything before he shot. All he knew was, ‘People are breaking into my house.’”
Do you believe that he didn’t know she was black?
In the meantime there is a lot working against the prosecution’s case, namely the fact that an autopsy has established McBride’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit and witnesses have confirmed she was drinking and smoking marijuana earlier that night.
After opening statements, prosecutors called McBride’s mother and best friend. Between the two of them, they established that McBride had drunk vodka and smoked marijuana in the evening of Nov. 1 at home. Her mother said she and McBride argued because the teen hadn’t cleaned the house, and McBride left the house by car at around 11:15 p.m.
Around 1 a.m., she crashed her car into that of Carmen Beasley, who lives about a mile from Wafer on the Detroit side of the city limits. Beasley said she tried to get McBride to stay put as they waited for the police and an ambulance, but McBride vanished.
“She just wanted to go home,” Beasley testified. “She wasn’t belligerent. She was young and she just wanted to be at home. That was her goal, to be home.”
This case is so sad. We really feel for McBride and her family and the prosecution is building a strong case that Wafer’s greatest error was going to the door with a locked and loaded shotgun, a weapon likely to do serious damage at such close range. But if a stranger knocked on your door at 4 am can you say you wouldn’t do the same? It’s not like he could see in the dark that she was bleeding from the head and needed help.
Do you think it’s an open and shut case of him being guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter?