A Wayne County District Court judge heard testimony Wednesday in the preliminary hearing for Theodore Wafer, of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, in the killing of 19-year-old Renisha McBride on his front porch in the early morning hours of November 2. The judge will soon decide whether to order Wafer to stand trial.
Wafer, 54, told police he heard banging on his front door and thought someone was breaking into his home. He also told police he accidentally discharged his shotgun when McBride was shot in the face and killed.
Wafer often looked pained or uncomfortable during the hearing as details of the case were aired.
New information was revealed during testimony. The medical examiner, Dr. Kilak Kesha, said that the shooting at close range led to McBride's brain being pulpified. Asked what that means by the prosecution, he said her "injuries were so severe I couldn't reconstruct the brain."
McBride, whose toxicology revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.218% (the legal limit is .08%), also had marijuana in her system. Before her fateful meeting with Wafer, she crashed her car. Dr. Kesha said any facial injuries she may have sustained during the car accident would have been masked by the severity of the shooting injury.
Carmen Beasley, a woman who's parked car was hit by McBride, also testified. She said she first called police and told them what happened before going out with her husband to speak with the young woman. She said McBride seemed disoriented, was staggering somewhat and had her hands on her temples.
Beasley testified that she tried to help McBride by asking her for a contact number for a family member but was unable to get one from her. She said the young woman kept saying she just wanted to go home but at no point did she become testy or angry.
Wafer's own 911 call was also played. "Uh yes, I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun, banging on my door," Wafer was heard telling the dispatcher. As the call played multiple times in the courtroom, he could be seen grimacing and appeared uncomfortable.
The McBride case has inflamed long-simmering racial tension after similar cases where a young unarmed black teen was killed with little to no repercussions, including Jonathan Ferrell and the high-profile case of Trayvon Martin.
Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump is bothered by some of the details in this case.
"One thing that troubles me is that he opened the door, it's like he put himself in harms way," he told BuzzFeed. "Why would you open the door? It's extremely troubling. That's like when George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case gets out of the car and pursues him, it's like you're putting yourself in harms way. And they kill our children and say it's self defense, but why did you put yourself in harms way?"
Crump was also struck by the wording of Wayne County district attorney Kym Worthy when she announced the manslaughter and murder charges against Wafer: That he shot McBride through a locked screen door.
Crump said the detail, while sounding bad, could be construed as meaning Wafer thought there was a possible break-in happening, that the screen door wasn't a strong barricade, and he still had to shoot through the screen door. During a press conference, Gerald Thurswell, lawyer for the McBride family, said the detail is damning.
"He went to the door, opened up the door, and he shot her head off through a locked screen door," he said. "The screen door was locked. There was never a confrontation between him and her."
He talked about those who say the case is analogous to the Trayvon Martin case.
"No one knows what happened that night but we know there was a physical altercation, a physical confrontation," he said of Martin and Zimmerman.
"In this case, there was no physical confrontation. This man wasn't threatened. He's over 6 feet tall. Renisha was 5'4 with a baby face. She was intoxicated but that doesn't give anyone the right to blow off her head."
During the hearing Wafer's lawyers disputed that the screen door was necessarily locked, saying the door could have been opened when the gunshot went through it. But Wayne County assistant prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark tried to pour water on the tactic.
Det. Sgt. Stephen Gurka, the police officer who was on the scene that night, said the screen door was locked when he arrived. He said the hole in the screen door was consistent with a shotgun being fired through it.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the preliminary hearing was still ongoing and the judge had yet to rule on if the case will go to trial.
Echoing the sentiment of the outpouring of many around the country and on social media, Crump once again compared the case he is known for with McBride's: "You have to ask the question with Renisha and Trayvon — why don't they get the benefit of the doubt?"
"What people want is equal justice," said Crump.
Adrian Carrasquillo is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Adrian Carrasquillo at email@example.com.
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