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DETROIT (Reuters) - A white suburban Detroit man wept as he told a jury that he regretted shooting to death an unarmed black teenage girl on his porch, but he thought someone was trying to break into his house.
Theodore Wafer, 55, is accused of killing Renisha McBride, 19, with a shotgun blast to the face through a screen door in Dearborn Heights after she knocked looking for help last November.
"It's so devastating," he said, breaking into tears. "This poor girl. She had her whole life in front of her. I took that away from her."
Wafer, an airport maintenance worker who is charged with second-degree murder in the racially charged case, faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Wearing a gray suit coat and speaking in a low voice, Wafer testified that on the night of the shooting he heard violent knocking on his front and side doors and he feared that someone and possibly more than one person was trying to break in.
He said he had left his cell phone in jeans he had removed earlier and could not find it to call 911.
"I knew I had to get my gun," Wafer said. "I didn't know where this was going."
Wafer has told police the shooting was an accident. He said on the stand that he pulled the trigger as a "total reflex reaction" in self-defense when he saw a figure coming fast toward the door.
"I raised the gun and shot," Wafer said.
In a videotaped police interview played to jurors by the prosecution as part of cross-examination on Monday, Wafer said he did not know the gun was loaded.
But he told jurors earlier that he had loaded the gun in September, after a neighbor told him about having to use a gun to scare off three drug users.
Prosecutors have called Wafer's actions unjustified and unreasonable, and they said he had other options besides shooting, including calling police.
Wafer said he makes $30,000 a year and bought the Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun in 2008 because he couldn't afford home security.
The killing of McBride has sparked protests in Dearborn Heights and comparisons to the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager from Florida who was unarmed.
McBride had been in a car accident and was intoxicated when she came to Wafer's door, according to previous testimony.
Reporting by Aaron Foley; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Jim Loney and Eric Beech