Renisha McBride had been drinking the night of Nov. 2, when she crashed her car and wandered off in search of something. Maybe it was help. Maybe it was to get away from the accident. Maybe she was disoriented and unclear of her surroundings, lost on a side of town that wasn't hers. The 19-year-old was bloody when she found a house and allegedly knocked on the locked front screen door.
Theodore P. Wafer claims he thought she was breaking in. It was early in the morning, so the 54-year-old Dearborn, Mich., homeowner grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun. It is unclear if words were exchanged or how the scene unfolded, but what is clear is that McBride was shot in the face and police found her dead on the front porch.
Now a country still grieving the loss of an unarmed teen in Florida and struggling not to become completely split along racial divides will be asked again to contend with another premature loss of an unarmed black life. Second-degree-murder charges were filed against Wafer this morning.
“We do not believe he acted in lawful self-defense,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said during a press conference during which she announced that Wafer would be charged with three counts: second-degree murder, manslaughter and possession of a firearm during the attempted commission or commission of a felony. Wafer will have to turn himself in and is expected to be arraigned at 2 p.m. in Dearborn Heights, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Worthy said there was no evidence of forced entry at Wafer’s home. She said it is alleged that McBride was shot after she knocked on the locked front screen door. She said that evidence suggests Wafer opened the front door before he fired through the closed and locked screen door, according to the Free Press.
This news comes a day after a toxicology report released by the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office showed that McBride was highly intoxicated when she was fatally shot. Her blood alcohol level was .218 percent, and marijuana was detected in her system. Michigan law states that the legal limit for anyone over age 21 to be considered driving while drunk is 0.08 percent, and drivers who are not 21 are prohibited from having a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent, according to the Michigan secretary of state, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Civil rights groups and McBride’s family have called for a thorough investigation, saying they believe that McBride was a victim of racial profiling. McBride was black and Wafer is white. Prosecutors insisted that race was not a factor in their decision to press charges against Wafer.
“In this case, the charging decision has absolutely nothing to do with the race of the parties,” Worthy said.
Details have been slow to emerge in the case, but a press release from Worthy’s office sheds new light on what evidence has been collected and considered when charging Worthy. “On November 2, 2013, at approximately 12:57 a.m., Renisha McBride was driving a white Ford sedan when she struck a parked car in the in the 7200 block of Bramell,” the press release states. “McBride was observed to have blood on her body and appeared to be disoriented when she left the scene on foot,” a detail that McBride’s aunt believed to be the case when the incident happened, and which the press release confirms.
Also in the release: “At approximately 4:42 a.m., the police received a 911 call and were dispatched to a home … to respond to a fatal shooting … There were no signs of forced entry at the location.”
If convicted, Wafer could serve anywhere from two years to life in prison. He is expected to turn himself in this afternoon.
"She probably wanted to ask him to make a call for her or if she could use the phone," said McBride’s maternal aunt, Bernita Spinks, to the Detroit News when details of the case first emerged.
The family's lawyer, Gerald Thurswell, said that Wafer called 911 after he shot McBride, and it took police two minutes to respond.
“If he had called 911 when he heard her outside his house, they would have been there within two minutes and she would be alive today,” Thurswell said. “Maybe she would have been arrested for being intoxicated, but she would not be dead,” the Associated Press reports.