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Michigan Man Charged With Murder In Shooting Death On Porch

NPR icon by Bill Chappell
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Paul Sancya

Prosecutors in Michigan are charging a man with second-degree murder for a Nov. 2 incident in which Renisha McBride, 19, was shot in the face after knocking on his door in Dearborn Heights, a suburb west of Detroit.

Theodore Wafer has reportedly told police that he feared a break-in when he heard sounds on his porch. Officials said Friday that the fatal shot was fired through the house's open front door, passing through a locked screen door before striking McBride.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced the charges against Wafer Friday. He also faces charges of manslaughter and possession of a firearm during a felony. Worthy said she believes Wafer owned the weapon legally.

Earlier in the day, officials released a toxicology report showing McBride was found to have high levels of alcohol in her system, along with trace amounts of marijuana. No toxicology test was performed on Wafer, Worthy said.

When asked today whether race is an issue in the case, Worthy said, "No, it's not relevant at all, not to our charging decision."

Wafer, a 54-year-old homeowner, has reportedly admitted to shooting McBride in the early hours of Nov. 2 with a 12-gauge shotgun after hearing what he thought were the sounds of someone trying to break into his house. Today, Worthy said the home showed no signs of an attempt to force entry, and that according to the evidence, Wafer opened the front door himself.

Worthy said the evidence suggests McBride knocked on a locked screen door and that the shot that killed her was fired through the screen door. She also said that it doesn't appear Wafer and McBride knew each other.

An arraignment for Wafer has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. Prosecutors expect him to turn himself in before that appearance.

In announcing the charges, Worthy also described the statute on self-defense in Michigan law.

"There is no duty to retreat when you're in your own house. But someone who claims self-defense must have an honest and reasonable believe of imminent death" or other significant harm, she said, adding that the person would need to use force to prevent that imminent harm.

While some of the details of what happened that night haven't been made public, The Detroit Free Press has assembled what may be a rough chronology:

"According to police, McBride's vehicle struck a parked vehicle in Detroit more than two hours before she was shot. Police said that just before 1 a.m. Nov. 2, a witness called 911 to say a woman was speeding down the street in the area of Bramell and Majestic, hit a parked vehicle, got out of her car and left.

"She later returned to the scene, according to a second 911 call, but was gone when police arrived. That caller told police the woman appeared to be intoxicated."

Citing sources, the newspaper says McBride was driving a car that was registered in her father's name.

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