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54-year-old Theodore Wafer will have to go to trial for the shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, a judge ruled today after a two-day preliminary hearing.
Wafer appeared in court Tuesday and Wednesday, alongside his attorneys, to hear the evidence the prosecution has against him. Wafer is being charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in the November 2013 shooting death of Renisha McBride.
Renisha had crashed her car in the early morning hours of November 2, and wandered around the Dearborn Heights, Michigan neighborhood, looking for help. She knocked on Wafer’s door, and he shot her with his shotgun while she stood on his doorstep. He claims he believed she was trying to break into his home. He also claims he accidentally discharged the firearm. You can read my prior posts about this case HERE.
The prosecutor presented evidence they believe should be taken to trial, including the below facts of the case:
- Renisha died from a gunshot wound to the head. She was shot “straight on” through the screen door.
- Renisha’s blood alcohol level was three and a half times the legal limit in Michigan. She also had marijuana in her system.
- The medical examiner couldn’t tell if there was any brain injury from the car accident due to the shotgun wound.
- Carmen Beasley called 911 at 12:55 AM on November 2, after Renisha’s car crashed into her car in her driveway. She then went outside to investigate. She called again at 1:20 AM to say that Renisha had fled the scene, but had just returned. “She’s drunk and bleeding from her arms,” Carmen tells the 911 operator.
- Carmen also told the 911 operator that Renisha didn’t know where she was.
- Carmen offered to call a friend or family member for Renisha, but Renisha just kept saying that she needed to go home. Carmen said that at no point did Renisha become testy or angry.
- After Wafer shot Renisha, he called 911 and said, “I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun banging on my door.”
- The officer responding to Wafer’s home said he saw a woman lying on the porch, her feet pointed toward the front door and her head in a bush.
- One of the responding officers testified that he believes Renisha was shot through the closed screen door. The door was closed and locked when he arrived.
- A woman who was waiting in her car for her boyfriend witnessed Renisha crash into the car in the driveway that was parallel to her. she said she spoke with Renisha and asked if she was ok. She didn’t notice any injuries on her, and said she appeared to be shocked.
- The prosecution also demonstrated how the shotgun Wafer used works, presumably hoping to debunk his claim that the gun accidentally went off. According to their witness, it takes approximately 6 pounds to pull the trigger.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Wayne County District Court Judge David Turfe concluded that the prosecutor had met the burden of probable cause, ruling that the evidence is sufficient to take to trial. He noted that there will be a “battle of the experts” when it comes to the distance in which Renisha was shot, and whether the gun accidentally discharged. Some of his other comments are summarized below:
The nature of a shotgun is to either shoot someone, scare someone, or protect yourself. There were other reasonable options, including calling for help and not answering the door that Wafer could have employed.
Carmen Beasley summed up the case perfectly. She said she wanted to assess the situation before she went out there. She called 911 first, she thought first, then she acted.
We can’t automatically penalize someone when pressed to react quickly. But we can’t allow someone to use a bad decision as a shield from criminal prosecution. His first thought was to bring a gun, not call for help.
The next hearing date in this case is January 15.
UPDATE: 1/15/14 2:04 PM
Wafer pleaded not guilty at his arraignment today, and a trial date has been set for June 2, 2014. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
He is out on bond while he awaits his trial.
UPDATE: 4/3/14 8:55 AM
This is going to be a messy trial.
Wafer’s attorneys are requesting a new judge, and are also seeking to admit into evidence things they found out about Renisha’s lifestyle.
In court filings submitted this week, Wafer’s attorneys say the fact that Renisha was on Wafer’s doorstep to seek help is “fiction.”
They are asking a judge to to let jurors see photos that were recovered from Renisha’s phone that allegedly show her with wads of money, alcohol, marijuana, and even what appears to be a gun.
They are also claiming that Renisha may have been trying to break into the home of her “marijuana dealer” that night.
A hearing on some of those motions is set for April 4, 2014. Read more in the links below.
– Judge Rules Man Who Killed Unarmed Young Black Woman Renisha McBride Will Stand Trial
– Renisha McBride shooting: Trial set for June
– Dearborn Heights man charged in porch shooting of unarmed woman wants new judge