DETROIT (Reuters) - A Detroit jury will resume deliberations on Thursday to determine whether the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white suburban homeowner was murder or a fear-driven mistake.
Theodore Wafer, 55, has been charged with second degree murder for firing a fatal shotgun blast at Renisha McBride, 19, at his Dearborn Heights home after she knocked on the door seeking help early one morning last November. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
McBride had been drinking and smoking marijuana before getting into a car crash.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, Wayne County assistant prosecuting attorney Patrick Muscat said that Wafer handled his Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, “like a toy, and as a result a 19-year-old is dead.”
Wafer had told police that the shooting was an accident. He testified this week that violent knocking on the front and side doors caused him to think someone was breaking in. He said he “shot in fear” when he saw a figure coming to his door but did not take aim.
Defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter said Wafer acted in self-defense, and that while he may have been mistaken, he’s not guilty.
“He’s not a gun nut, he’s not an angry person, he’s not paranoid,” said Carpenter. “He was in terror.”
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.
To convict Wafer of second-degree murder, the jury must find that he meant to kill or cause great bodily harm, or knowingly created a situation that could result in death or bodily harm. Wafer also faces manslaughter and firearms charges.
The jury started deliberations on Wednesday by asking to see Wafer’s gun, and then his screen door.
Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Eric Walsh