A Detroit-area homeowner who shot in the face a 19-year-old girl at his door will be charged with murder, Wayne County prosecutors announced Thursday. The charges include murder in the second degree, which carries a term of up to life in prison; a manslaughter charge with a maximum term of 15 years in prison; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony or attempted commission, which carries a term of two years in prison.
In the two weeks since Renisha McBride was shot dead outside the Dearborn Heights home, protests have escalated around the country to charge the homeowner, suggesting comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin. The shooter was white and McBride is African American. While the homeowner, now identified as Theodore P. Wafer, age 54, initially told police he discharged the gun by accident, his lawyer since told the press the shooting was “justified” and “reasonable,” invoking language from Michigan’s “Shoot First” laws that allow immunity for some self-defense shootings. At a press conference Friday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said her office determined that Wafer “did not act in lawful self-defense.”
It is now clear that Michigan’s Stand Your Ground-like laws did not stop prosecutors from charging Wafer. Wafer may, however, still seek immunity from charges at trial.
Here’s what we know:
- Police believe McBride was in a car accident and knocked on the door of the home for help. Worthy reported Friday that McBride, was bloodied, confused, and disoriented. Toxicology reports also show that her blood alcohol level was above the legal limit.
- The shooter didn’t know McBride. In audio released by the police, the homeowner told the dispatcher he shot someone he didn’t know.
- The homeowner’s lawyer is calling the shooting “justified.” The homeowner initially said he accidentally discharged the gun, but when his lawyer, Cheryl Carpenter, spoke to the press, she said the shooting was “justified” and invoked the language of Michigan’s “Shoot First” laws that could immunize the homeowner from prosecution if he was acting in self-defense. Carpenter also told NPR that the knocking sounded like a lot of banging, rather than a knock.
- There were no signs of forced entry into the home. Prosecutor Worthy said during the press conference Friday that McBride had not attempted to forcibly enter the home. For Wafer to successfully invoke immunity under what is known as the “Castle Doctrine,” which authorizes deadly force without a duty to retreat in one’s home, he would have to show that McBride was “in the process of breaking and entering a dwelling.” He could also use the state’s Stand Your Ground law to show that he reasonably believed force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.