DETROIT (Reuters) - A white suburban Detroit homeowner who shot a black teenage girl to death on his front porch said on Tuesday he was acting out of fear and not aiming at her.
Theodore Wafer, 55, is accused of shooting Renisha McBride, 19, in the face through a screen door in Dearborn Heights when she knocked on his door looking for help after an early morning car crash last November.
McBride had been in the accident after drinking and smoking marijuana when she came to Wafer’s house and began loudly knocking on the front and side doors, according to previous testimony.
Taking the stand in his racially charged second-degree murder trial, Wafer said he “shot in fear” when he saw a figure coming to his door. When asked by a prosecutor if he had shot on purpose, he said, “Yes,” but added he did not take aim.
He also testified that he regretted not finding his phone and calling police before using his gun that night.
The defense rested on Tuesday afternoon. After closing arguments, set for Wednesday, the case could go to the jury. The airport maintenance worker faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Wafer wept during Monday’s testimony, saying he regretted killing the unarmed McBride but that the violent knocking made him think someone was trying to break in.
He has testified that he couldn’t find his cell phone to call police and went to the door with his shotgun. He had told police the shooting was an accident, and testified that he pulled the trigger as a “reflex reaction.”
Prosecutors called Wafer’s actions unjustified and unreasonable. “Shoot first and ask questions later, right?” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Athina Siringas asked Wafer.
He responded: “It was a threat that was coming into my house.”
Siringas asked Wafer if his first reaction to seeing a young African-American female was to shoot, but his attorney objected before Wafer could respond.
The killing has sparked protests in Dearborn Heights and comparisons to the 2012 Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was also unarmed.
Gerald Thurswell, the McBride family lawyer, said Tuesday morning he believed Wafer was trying to sway opinion on the mostly white jury by talking about how “renters” had been replacing owners in his historically white neighborhood.
Thurswell told reporters that he believed “renters” was a code word for racial minorities.
Reporting by Aaron Foley; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Gunna Dickson and Eric Beech