CREDIT: Associated Press
A judge ruled Thursday that there was enough evidence for the Dearborn Heights, Mich. man who shot dead 19-year-old Renisha McBride when she arrived at his door to stand trial for murder. Delays in charging Theodore P. Wafer with murder sparked national protests over comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin. Wafer is white and McBride is African American.
During a two-day hearing, witnesses testified that McBride appeared injured after hitting a parked car at around 1 a.m., and that damage to the windshield suggested her head had struck it. At about 4:42 a.m., she appeared at Wafer’s door, likely seeking help. Testimony also suggested Wafer shot her from about 3 feet away, and hit her in the face, according to CBS Detroit.
Dearborn Heights District Court Judge David D. Turfe rejected Wafer’s arguments that the shooting was justified by fear for his life. “What did he do in this case, he brought a shotgun to the door,” Turfe said, according to MLive. “He could have called for help, he could have run to another part of the house… He chose to shoot rather than not answer the door.”
Turfe added that this “suggests to this court the defendant made a bad choice when there were other reasonable opportunities.”
The argument Wafer made is effectively that his killing was justified under the state’s “Shoot First” self-defense laws that authorize individuals to use deadly force without a duty to retreat when they reasonably fear death or great bodily harm. The judge’s comments Thursday suggests Wafer’s fear was not “reasonable” since he chose to open the door for McBride. But Wafer will have other opportunities to raise those arguments at trial, and they may come into play in a jury’s assessment of the evidence.
Police initially reported that Wafer said he discharged the gun by accident. But his attorney later argued that the shooting was justified because he feared for his life. A state firearms expert testified during the hearing that tests showed Wafer could not have accidentally discharged the gun.