Michigan man charged with murder for crash victim's doorstep shooting

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 November, 2013, 6:38am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 November, 2013, 6:39am


A white man who shot a black woman who knocked on his door after a late-night car crash in the US state of Michigan was charged with murder in a case that has stirred racial tensions.

The death of Renisha McBride, 19, sparked protests and comparisons to Trayvon Martin, the black teenager whose killing last year at the hands of a neighbourhood-watch volunteer in Florida provoked a national debate on racism and "stand your ground" self-defence laws.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy insisted she was not influenced by the protests. "We do not make our decisions - ever - on public opinion," she said.

"The charging decision has nothing to do with the race of the parties. Whether it becomes relevant I don't know."

The evidence showed that homeowner Theodore Wafer, 54, shot McBride through a locked screen door after opening the storm door, Worthy said.

McBride had been involved in a car accident in Detroit that evening and witnesses said she left on foot and was "bloodied, disoriented and appeared to be confused", Worthy said.

"Hours later her lifeless body was found by police near the porch of a Dearborn Heights home. She was found with a very large gunshot wound to the face."

Wafer was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and use of a gun during a felony.

It is unclear how McBride ended up in Dearborn Heights, a mostly white suburb, after leaving predominantly black Detroit.

A toxicology report found that she was significantly over the legal alcohol level for driving and had marijuana in her system, according to local media.

Wafer's lawyer has said that he thought someone was trying to break into his house when he heard the banging at his door shortly before 4.40am on November 2 and that he was "justified" in shooting McBride.

He reportedly told police his shotgun went off accidentally.

At an arraignment on Friday, defence lawyer Mack Carpenter insisted his client would be exonerated. "My client has a very strong defence of this charge so the likelihood of conviction is not that great," he told the court.

The judge said that because of the "seriousness of the crime" he would set a bond of US$250,000.

"We do not believe he acted in lawful self-defence," Worthy said in announcing the charges.

She said lawful self-defence required an "honest and reasonable belief of imminent death or imminent great bodily harm".

McBride was unarmed and there were no signs of forced entry, Worthy said.

Her family welcomed the charges at a press conference.

"We stand with the community, and America, that has spoken out of the unjustness of this murder," mother Monica McBride said.