The story of Theodore Wafer—a white, suburban Detroit man charged in connection with the Nov. 2 shooting death of unarmed black teen Renisha McBride—has all the elements of an American tragedy: a shooter and victim of different races, living on either side of the suburban-urban divide, in a state with a permissive self-defense code backed by the National Rifle Association and corporations that sell guns.
It involves a young woman’s death from a facial-gunshot wound, a community in mourning and one more aspect of the case that’s received somewhat less coverage thus far—the firearm allegedly used on the morning she died was a shotgun nicknamed “The Persuader."
Just after the shooting, Wafer’s lawyers told reporters that it had accidentally fired.
But this version of events might be measured against the design of that weapon—a Mossberg 500 12-guage shotgun—which features a safety that prevents the gun from firing when enabled. It also includes a “slide-action” feature that requires shooters to manually pump ammunition into the gun’s chamber.
These features make this particular weapon—identified as “The Persuader” on its case and in a police report—an ideal weapon for the home, according to a February review posted at PersonalDefenseWorld.com.
“If you’re worried about becoming a home-invasion victim, the best deterrent by far is a … shotgun designed specifically to repel late-night intruders … While you have several action choices, my money is on the slide-action pump … It takes only a little practice to fire these shells in rapid succession. Another point to consider is the deterrent effect the distinctive 'shuck-shuck' sound a pump gun makes when chambering a shell. It would take a determined (or drugged-out) assailant to ignore that chilling noise and keep on coming … Loaded with buckshot, Mossberg’s tactical shotguns are the most effective manstoppers on the planet.”
In a YouTube review posted by “thetacticalinformer” and accessed more than 40,000 times, Mossberg’s Persuader is described as “affordable,” “a big competitor in the market,” “very reliable, very simple and very effective.” The review also describes a number of modifications that can be made to the American-made weapon.
Several other gun reviews and product descriptions depict it as a weapon built for defense against human intruders, while a few detail its suitability for hunting.
The manufacturer has produced more than 10 million Mossberg 500s, including a specially designed youth model, according to the company’s written statement. Different varieties and features, including a pistol-style grip, make the weapon easy to manage and have made The Persuader, according to Mossberg, the “fastest selling shotgun in history!”
Like all long guns in Michigan, The Persuader can be purchased from a licensed gun dealer or private seller without the buyer ever undergoing a background check. Wafer owned the weapon legally, and public records indicate that despite prior DUI charges, he does not have a criminal history that would prohibit him from legally purchasing other types of guns.
On Friday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy indicated that Wafer and his attorneys have since described the shooting as an act of self-defense. Worthy insists that Wafer’s actions and other evidence in the case do not indicate that Wafer’s actions are consistent with Michigan’s self-defense code.
And, Worthy’s spokeswoman said Friday, prosecutors believe that they can prove this.
Janell Ross is a reporter in New York who covers political and economic issues. She is working on a book about race, economic inequality and the recession, due to be published by Beacon Press next year. Follow her on Twitter.