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Mich. porch shooter: "Unbelievable" pounding left me in fear

Theodore Wafer, left, during his preliminary examination before District Court Judge David Turfe in Dearborn Heights, Mich., Dec. 18, 2013. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

DETROIT -- A suburban Detroit man on trial for killing an unarmed woman outside his home said Tuesday that her "unbelievable" pre-dawn pounding on his doors made him fear for his life, sticking to his self-defense claim during cross-examination on the last day of testimony.

Prosecutor Athina Siringas asked Theodore Wafer a series of pointed questions, often in a skeptical tone. She poked at inconsistencies in statements he made to police and in court, and she mocked some of his responses.

"I wasn't looking for a confrontation. I was hoping to end a confrontation," Wafer said. "You sure ended it, Mr. Wafer," replied Siringas, who moments earlier asked if his strategy was to "shoot first, ask questions later."

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Renisha McBride

CBS Detroit
Wafer, 55, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday. Wafer, who lives alone, said that on Nov. 2, 2013, he was roused out of sleep around 4:30 a.m. by loud banging outside his Dearborn Heights home. He testified Monday that he opened his front door, noticed the screen door had been tampered with, then opened the front door further before a figure emerged quickly from the side of the house.

He said he raised his shotgun and fired. "This was unbelievable. I still can't wrap my head around it that a woman could be making these sounds," he said during cross-examination Tuesday.

An autopsy showed McBride was drunk when she turned up at the house, which is about a half-mile from where she crashed her car into a parked car in Detroit 3½ hours earlier. The two didn't know one another, and it isn't known whether McBride was seeking help when she approached Wafer's home.

Prosecutors say Wafer could have remained safely in his locked home and called 911 instead of using deadly force. Siringas asked him about his initial statements to police that he didn't know the Mossberg shotgun with a pistol-grip handle was loaded.

"I forgot about it," Wafer said of placing a round a few weeks earlier. He said he probably took the safety off the gun with his thumb when he pulled the weapon from a box.

Wafer said he didn't intentionally aim at McBride's face, which is where she was fatally shot.

"Your elbow went up, your arm went up, you aimed it at Renisha McBride, and you pulled the trigger," Siringas said.

"There was no pointing," Wafer replied. "Just a self-defense reaction to protect myself."

Siringas followed: "You've got a lot of buzz words, don't you Mr. Wafer?"

At times while questioning Wafer, the prosecutor walked in front of the jury carrying the gun used to kill McBride. She put it down when defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter objected.

In the aftermath of the shooting, some wondered whether race may have been a factor because Wafer is white and McBride was black. Race hasn't been an issue at trial, although the prosecutor mentioned it during cross-examination Tuesday.

"Why not say, 'Back up. Get off my porch. What are you doing here?' ... Your reaction to seeing a young African-American female on your porch was to shoot her," Siringas said.

Wafer said he didn't immediately know she was black.

  • Crimesider Staff

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