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Theodore Paul WAFER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager on his front porch in a racially charged case that sparked protests in the Detroit area
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 2, 2013
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1959
Victim profile: Renisha McBride, 19
Method of murder: Shooting (12-gauge Mossberg shotgun)
Location: Dearborn Heights, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to 17 to 32 years in prison on September 3, 2014

photo gallery


Shooting of Renisha McBride

The death of Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old African-American woman, occurred on November 2, 2013, in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, United States.

Renisha McBride crashed her car at a street in Detroit, and then walked to a neighborhood in Dearborn Heights where she loudly knocked on the windows and the door of a house. The homeowner, Theodore Wafer, shot McBride with a shotgun. Wafer contended that the shooting was accidental and that he thought his home was being broken into after he heard her banging on his door at 4:42 in the morning.

The shooting prompted some to claim her death was a result of racial profiling.

Wafer was convicted of second-degree murder on August 7, 2014, and received a sentence of 17 to 32 years in prison.


On November 2, 2013, McBride crashed her car at Bramell and Majestic on the west side of Detroit. Police report that the 911 caller said a woman had been speeding down the street, struck a parked car, got out of the vehicle, and then left on foot. Police initially considered the incident a low priority, so no officers were immediately dispatched. Forty minutes later, another call was placed indicating that the driver had returned. EMS arrived on the scene, but McBride had again walked away from the scene and was not treated.

The owner of the parked car, who encountered McBride and called 911, told police that McBride was "discombobulated" and appeared to be in a "confused state of not knowing where she was and not being able to give a phone number or anything."

Shortly before 4:42 am, McBride was shot by homeowner Theodore Paul Wafer, 54, on the porch of his Dearborn Heights home, more than three hours after she crashed her car about a mile away. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy stated Wafer opened his front door and fired a shotgun blast through a screen door, hitting McBride in her face.

It is unclear what McBride was doing during the three hours between the crash and the fatal shooting. Her family, however, states that she was looking for help after becoming disoriented by the crash, in which she may have sustained a head injury.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that she was highly intoxicated at the time of her death. Wafer initially stated to police that he thought his home was being broken into and that he had accidentally fired his 12-gauge shotgun.

Firearms expert David Balash, who is testifying for the defense, believes the screen in the outer door was out of its frame before the shot was fired, a theory that suggests McBride may have knocked it out of place, causing alarm in the homeowner. Prosecutors blame the blast for the displacement.

Legal proceedings

On November 15, 2013, the Wayne County's prosecutor office announced its decision to prosecute Wafer for second-degree murder, manslaughter, and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. Wafer faced a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment for the second-degree murder charge and 15 years for manslaughter, and an additional two years for the felony gun charge.

The trial began on June 2014. Wafer was found guilty of all three charges on August 7, 2014.

On September 3, 2014, Wafer was sentenced to 17 to 32 years of prison. He received 15 to 30 years for second-degree murder, and a mandatory two-year sentence for the felony firearms charge.


After the shooting, protesters and well-known civil rights figures such as Reverend Al Sharpton demanded prosecution of the white homeowner, likening the shooting to the killing in February 2012 of Trayvon Martin and stating that McBride may have been racially profiled.

One legal expert noted that a difference between the two cases is that the timeline of events was much clearer in the shooting of Martin. Regardless, the shooting became a symbol in the debate over "stand your ground" laws. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy stated that the decision to charge Wafer had "nothing to do whatsoever with the race of the parties," but expressed no opinion regarding whether race would later become relevant.


Tearful judge gives man 17 years for Michigan porch shooting

By Aaron Foley -

September 3, 2014

DETROIT (Reuters) - A tearful judge on Wednesday sent a white Michigan man to prison for at least 17 years for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager on his front porch in a racially charged case that sparked protests in the Detroit area.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway sentenced Theodore Wafer, 55, to a mandatory two years for felony firearm usage followed by concurrent sentences of seven to 15 years for manslaughter and 15 to 30 years for second-degree murder.

That means he will serve at least 17 years in prison before being eligible for parole, and a maximum of 32 years.

"This one of the saddest cases," said Hathaway, who teared up as she delivered the sentence after an emotional hearing. "An unjustified fear is never an excuse to take someone's life."

Wafer's private attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, said he would appeal the conviction and has requested a public defender to handle the appeal.

Wafer shot and killed Renisha McBride, 19, who was intoxicated and had been involved in a car crash when she banged on his front door in suburban Dearborn Heights early on a rainy morning last November, apparently seeking help.

"I'll never have the opportunity to see her grow up, be a woman and have kids," McBride's father, Walter Simmons, told the court at the sentencing hearing.

Gerald Thurswell, a lawyer representing McBride's family, said the family was "very happy" with the sentence. The prosecution had asked for at least 17 years for Wafer, who was convicted on August 7.

Wafer, an airport maintenance worker, asked McBride's family for forgiveness.

"From my fear I caused the loss of a life who was too young to leave this world," he said. "From that I will carry this guilt and sorrow forever."

Carpenter argued at the hearing that her client should receive a lesser sentence because the crime was not premeditated and because he could be rehabilitated. She said 17 years was like a death sentence for a 55-year-old man because "one year in prison is like five years on the outside."

The shooting and subsequent trial drew comparisons with the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed black teen who was shot to death in 2012 by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.

The McBride shooting sparked protests in the Detroit area, which has a history of racial tensions.

Wafer, who testified in court that he was in fear of his life, opened his front door and shot McBride in the face with a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun, telling police he believed someone was trying to break into his house.

Wafer told police his weapon went off by accident but prosecutors convinced a jury that not only did Wafer intend to kill, he had previous experience with firearms and had other options to resolve the situation.

McBride's parents, Simmons and Monica McBride, filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against Wafer shortly after his criminal trial ended.


White homeowner told police fatal shooting of black 19-year-old was an 'accident' and that he didn't know his shotgun was loaded

  • Theodore Wafer's statement contradicts his attorney's claim that he feared for his life and acted in self defense when he killed Renisha McBride

  • The shotgun is a Mossberg pump-action 12-gauge with a pistol grip

By Michael Zennie - and Associated Press

July 24, 2014

The white suburban Detroit man who killed an black unarmed teenager on his porch told police immediately after the shooting that it was an accident and that he didn't know his shotgun was loaded, jurors have heard this morning.

The statements from Theodore Wafer, which he made to police minutes after he blasted Renisha McBride in the face, contradict his defense team's claim that Wafer feared for his life when he opened fire.

Wafer, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, met officers outside his Dearborn Heights, Michigan, home after they responded to his 911 call around 4.30am on November 2.

'What happened here?' Sergeant Rory McManmon asked, according to the recording played by prosecutors.

'A consistent knocking on the door, and I'm trying to look through the windows and the door,' Wafer said.

'It's banging somewhere else so I open up the door, kind of like who is this? And the gun discharged.

'I didn't know there was a round in there,' Wafer told McManmon.

'I don't get it. Who's knocking on your door at 4.30 in the morning? Bang, bang, bang - somebody wanting in.'

Pictures of the weapon reveal that it is a Mossberg pump-action 12-gauge shotgun with a pistol grip. The pistol grip means that it is a weapon built for home defense, not for hunting - like many shotguns are used.

Wafer's words minutes after the shooting stand in stark contrast to how his characterized the his feelings before the shooting.

McBride's pounding on the door at such an early hour led Wafer to think his life was in danger, defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter told jurors in her opening statement on Wednesday.

'"People were trying to get in." That was reasonable for Ted to believe and that's what he believed that night," Carpenter said, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Wafer, 55, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Renisha McBride, who appeared on his porch three and a half hours after crashing her car a half-mile away in Detroit.

He told police that the victim, later identified as 19-year-old McBride, looked like a 'neighbor girl or something.' McBride didn't live in the neighborhood, and an autopsy revealed she was extremely drunk.

Wafer's lawyers say he shot McBride in self-defense. Prosecutors, however, say he should have called police if he feared for his safety.

Police asked Wafer about his weapon, which was on the ground in the foyer of his home when officers arrived.

'It's a little Mossberg, you know, shotgun. Self-defense,' Wafer replied.


Wafer says of porch shooting: 'I didn't know there was a round in there'

By Elisha Anderson and Gina Damron - Detroit Free Press

July 24, 2014

His own words, told to police moments after he shot a 19-year-old woman on his Dearborn Heights porch, suggest Theodore Wafer may not have intended to fire his gun the night Renisha McBride was killed.

Prosecutors played his comments in Wayne County Circuit Court today during the second day of testimony in Wafer’s trial.

“I open up the door, kind of like, ‘Who is this?’ and the gun discharged,” Wafer told police. “I didn’t know there was a round in there.”

Meanwhile, the defense, who has said that 55-year-old Wafer shot McBride in self-defense, questioned Dearborn Heights police about how they investigated the young woman’s death, saying “it was incomplete and inadequate and evidence was lost.”

An officer said the doors on Wafer’s home were dusted for fingerprints on Nov. 11 during questioning by Cheryl Carpenter, Wafer’s attorney. McBride was shot more than a week earlier, around 4:40 a.m. Nov. 2.

Police gave a time line for parts of their investigation today and said they took pictures at Wafer’s home the night of McBride’s death and took more Nov. 7.

Police recovered McBride’s cell phone from a car at a tow yard Nov. 4. The car was there because, hours before she was shot, McBride had been drinking vodka and smoking marijuana and crashed into a parked car, according to earlier testimony.

Authorities returned to the tow yard Nov. 5 to photograph the car and returned again Nov. 7 to collect blood samples, Dearborn Heights police Cpl. Mark Parrinello testified.

He acknowledged under cross-examination that it would be “wise” to collect evidence as soon as an incident occurred, and that it’s possible to lose evidence if it’s not collected quickly and efficiently.

“It is part of the defense theory of the case that this wasn’t a good investigation,” Carpenter said.

Earlier in the day, jurors saw photographs from the scene, including the torn screen door, shotgun on the floor near the front door, a spent shotgun shell casing, gun case and McBride with blood.

Several of her relatives left the courtroom when the pictures played on a large screen.

As testimony started today, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark played for the jury audio from a microphone worn by a responding officer.

“Where’s the gun?” an officer asked. Wafer replied, “It’s on the ground inside the landing right there.”

Then police asked Wafer what happened.

“A consistent knocking on the door, and I’m trying to look through the windows, but every time I look through the windows and the door, it’s banging somewhere else, so I open up the door, kind of like, ‘Who is this?’ and the gun discharged,” he said, according to the transcript shown to jurors.

He went on to say, “I don’t get it. Who’s knocking on your door at 4:30 in the morning? Bang, bang, bang. Somebody wanting in.”

Wafer faces charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and using a firearm in a felony.

The defense has said Wafer’s actions were justified. But, prosecutors contend Wafer created a situation where death or great bodily harm was likely to occur and that his actions were “unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable.”

Dearborn Heights police Sgt. Rory McManmon was a few blocks away when he was sent to the scene.

“I observed a black female lying on the porch on her back with her feet directed towards the door,” he said.

McBride’s driver’s license and $56 were in her back pants pocket and recovered at the scene, police testified.

Also today, Parrinello said he had to take six to eight maggots off of McBride’s clothing.

“How did the maggots get into Ms. McBride’s clothing?” Carpenter asked.

“One of the officers did say that when Ms. McBride was at the (medical examiner’s) office ... there was another gurney with some tissue on it, which turned out to be deer meat that had maggots on it,” Parrinello replied.

There was a transfer onto McBride’s clothes, he testified.

A spokeswoman with the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said office doesn’t have deer meet or store animals unless it’s “necessary to retrieve a bullet for comparison or something related to a crime.”

But it’s not uncommon for bodies to come into the office with maggots, spokeswoman Mary Mazur said.

“Many of the bodies are in various stages of decomposition when they arrive,” she said. “It is a regular occurrence associated with death scenes.”

Testimony will continue Monday at 9 a.m. before Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.


Homeowner who shot dead drunk and disorientated car crash victim, 19, on porch WILL stand trial for murder as judge rejects his self-defense argument

  • Judge David Turfe said Detroit-area man, Theodore Wafer, made a 'bad choice' when he shot dead Renisha McBride through the screen of his front door in the early hours of November 2

  • Wafer, said he feared for his life and acted in self-defense but the judge rejected this argument Thursday

  • He will now stand trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter

  • Victim's family cried in court as the ruling was announced

  • Wafer, 54, called 911 around 4:30 a.m. and said he had shot someone who was banging on his door

  • Three hours earlier, McBride had crashed her car into a parked car in a residential neighborhood, about a half-mile away

By Daily Mail Reporter and Associated Press

December 19, 2013

A Detroit-area man who fatally shot a drunk, unarmed woman on his porch will stand trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter, a judge ruled Thursday, rejecting a self-defense argument for the killer's 'bad choice.'

There is no dispute that Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride, 19, through the screen of his front door in the early hours of November 2. His attorneys said he feared for his life, but Dearborn Heights Judge David Turfe said Wafer had other options.

'We can't allow (someone) to use a bad decision as a shield to criminal prosecution... The defendant made a bad choice,' the judge said.

Wafer's attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, pointed to Michigan's 2006 self-defense law.

'If someone is breaking into a home there is a presumption that a homeowner can use deadly force,' she argued. 'You don't know how many people are out there... There's violent banging on the front door. We have a man alone in his home.'

But Wayne County assistant prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark said it's 'ridiculous' to believe that Wafer was deeply afraid but still decided to open the door and fire instead of first calling the police.

'He shoved that shotgun in her face and pulled the trigger,' Hagaman-Clark said.

Wafer, 54, called 911 around 4:30 a.m. and said he had shot someone who was banging on his door.

More than three hours earlier, McBride had crashed her car into a parked car in a residential neighborhood, about a half-mile away in Detroit.

A witness said McBride was bleeding and holding her head, but that she walked away from the scene before an ambulance arrived. It's still unclear, at least publicly, what she did between the time of the car wreck and her arrival on Wafer's porch.

An autopsy found McBride had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.22, more than twice the legal limit for driving. She also had been smoking marijuana.

Her best friend, Amber Jenkins, 18, said they had been drinking vodka and playing cards seven to eight hours before the shooting was reported to 911.

Spectators, mostly McBride's family and friends, left the courtroom immediately after the judge's decision. Wafer lingered and appeared dazed as he stood and looked out a courtroom window. He thanked his attorneys and eventually left through a back door.

Carpenter told reporters the ruling was a disappointment.

Before hearing final arguments, the judge rejected Carpenter's request to play Wafer's one-hour recorded statement to police. It was not introduced by prosecutors when they presented evidence Wednesday.

Hagaman-Clark, citing Michigan court rules, successfully argued that the defense could play the video only if Wafer would agree to testify and open himself up to cross-examination.

'The videotaped statement is not subject to cross-examination,' the prosecutor said.

The news comes a day after a witness testified that the young woman was hurt, scared and confused a few hours earlier when she crashed her vehicle into a parked car.

Carmen Beasley provided details about the hours preceding McBride's shocking death.

Defense attorneys claimed he feared for his life, but prosecutors say the shooting was not justified.

Beasley said she heard a 'boom' outside her Detroit home about 1 a.m. and discovered that her car had been smashed.

She called 911, went outside and found McBride, who had walked away but returned to the scene.

McBride was bleeding and pressing her hands to her head, Beasley testified.

'She couldn't find her phone. She was patting her pockets. ... She just kept saying she wanted to get home,' Beasley said.

Beasley went back into her house to call an ambulance, but McBride had walked away again by the time help arrived.

McBride was 'discombobulated' and appeared to be in a 'confused state of not knowing where she was and not being able to give a phone number or anything', said Beasley, who believed the young woman was drunk.

There was no testimony about where McBride went during the next few hours as rain fell and temperatures dipped to the 40s. But she somehow ended up blocks away on Wafer's porch in Dearborn Heights.

Around 4:30 a.m., he called 911 to report that he had shot someone who was 'banging on my door.'

A photo of McBride's legs taken by police showed her left foot had broken through the sole of her boot.

Detective Sgt. Steve Gurka said Wafer's Mossberg shotgun was found inside near the front door with the spent shell still inside the firearm. A gun case was found on the floor in another area of the house.

Testifying for the defense, firearms expert David Balash said Wednesday he believes the screen in the outer door was out of its frame before the shot was fired, a theory that suggests McBride may have knocked it out of place and raised Wafer's fears. Prosecutors disagree.

Dr. Kilak Kesha, who conducted the autopsy on McBride, testified that her blood-alcohol level was about 0.22, more than twice the legal limit for driving, but probably was even higher before she was shot because levels drop over time.

He said she had been using marijuana.

Immediately after Ms McBride's death Wafer apparently claimed he pulled the trigger by accident, but in recent days his lawyer has said he was in fear for his life - despite his size.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter focused on alcohol, drugs and a possible head injury from the car crash.

'Could a person get more aggressive after a brain injury?' she asked.

'That's possible,' Kesha replied, later saying McBride 'absolutely' could have been quiet and withdrawn while drunk.

The prosecution implied that no damage or usable fingerprints on the outside door handles or screens indicated the teen was not trying to break in but was, instead, looking for help, according to Fox News.

The defense argued back saying the door wasn't tested for prints immediately after the shooting and that it was raining the night of the incident.

The court showed pictures from the scene including McBride's crashed car. Experts also demonstrated the steps necessary to fire the shotgun.

In the courtroom, McBride's supporters wore shirts bearing her image and the message, 'Don't shoot. Call 911.'

They wish Wafer had called police instead of shooting McBride from inside his home.


Audio: 911 call made by Theodore Wafer after he shot Renisha McBride

By Dennis Kraniak, Fox 2 News

November 15, 2013

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (WJBK) - Theodore Wafer, 54, is charged with second degree murder after he shot 19-year-old Renisha McBride on his front porch on November 2nd.Theodore Wafer, 54, is charged with second degree murder after he shot 19-year-old Renisha McBride on his front porch on November 2nd.

Fox 2 has obtained a recording of the call Wafer made from his Dearborn Heights home after he shot McBride.

Wafer says: "Uh yes... I just shot somebody on my front porch. with a shotgun, banging on my door." Wafer gives his address (we deleted the address in our post) and ends the call by saying "thank you" and hanging up, even as police dispatch continued.

On Friday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced charges against Wafer, nearly two weeks after police say Wafer shot McBride on the porch of his Dearborn Heights home on November 2.

An autopsy released this week ruled McBride died of a large gunshot wound to her face. A toxicology report released Thursday showed she had alcohol and marijuana in her system.

Police believe McBride was involved in a car accident several blocks north in Detroit before the shooting. They believe she was involved in a car accident nearby in Detroit and family members say she likely approached Wafer's home for help.

Gerald Thurswell, the McBride family's attorney, says, "If he had called 911 when he heard her outside his house, (the police) would have been there within two minutes and she would be alive today," Thurswell said. "Maybe she would have been arrested for being intoxicated, but she would not be dead."

Under a 2006 Michigan self-defense law, a homeowner has the right to use force during a break-in. Otherwise, a person must show his or her life was in danger.

"These are the appropriate charges and he did not act in lawful self-defense," Worthy said.

The shooting has prompted calls for a thorough investigation from civil rights groups that say race was a factor. McBride was an African-American. Wafer is white, said Worthy spokeswoman Maria Miller.


New Details on Theodore Wafer, the Man Who Shot Renisha McBride


November 15, 2013

The Michigan homeowner charged with fatally shooting a black teenager is described by an ex-girlfriend as someone who ‘drank a lot’ but was ‘never violent.’

DETROIT — Following more than a week of national controversy, a 54-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old woman who was killed as she stood on the porch of his Dearborn Heights home.

Theodore Wafer will be prosecuted for the death of McBride, who reports say had wandered about a half mile to his front door after the car she was driving hit a parked car on Nov 2. The case has inflamed racial tensions around the country—McBride was black, Wafer is white—and drawn comparisons to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.

The charges mark the first time Wafer’s name has been publicly disclosed, and few details are known about the man at the center of the case.

According to a former girlfriend who asked not to be identified, Wafer was a heavy drinker during at least part of his life. She has not seen or spoke with him in many years.

In an interview this week with The Daily Beast, the woman said she met Wafer in the mid-90s when he was driving a truck for a local auto parts distributor and she worked for an auto manufacturer. Wafer came from a large family and grew up in the Detroit area. She never knew him to have firearms in the year or so they were acquainted.

“He drank a lot, but he was never violent,” the woman said. She added that she did not believe Wafer to be a racist by any stretch. Wafer’s attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, declined to comment for this article.

Wafer would often ride a bike or taxi to drinking establishments in his neighborhood rather than risk driving, the woman said. “He was very conscious of losing his license and his job,” she said.

He was nearsighted, she said, and wore thick glasses.

She said her relationship with Wafer was nothing serious and ended in a civil dispute with Wafer with legal expenses of $3,000 on her end. “I ran into Ted a while later after than and I was not friendly,” she said. She told him the costs she had incurred. A few days later she came home to find $3,000 in cash stuffed in a bag inside her door.

Wafer obtained the house he lives in, a corner lot in a residential enclave just north of the Detroit city limits, through family when a relative died, she said. He has lived there since 1994.

“I think he was the one in the family who had the least resources and so they arranged for him to take the house,” she said. “I can’t say for sure, but he may have been the baby of the family.”

Wafer also had a habit of leaving lights on in his house during the night, and she speculated that McBride could have seen the lights and thought someone was awake, if indeed she was seeking help as some reports have stated.

Toxicology reports found McBride was drunk, with a blood alcohol content of .218, almost three times the legal driving limit of .08.

A 911 tape released indicated that Wafer called police after he shot McBride to report the incident, then hung up. He called back and told police that he didn’t know who it was he had shot.

McBride was lying on the porch after the shooting, according to the tape.

In a press conference announcing the charges Friday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the shooting took place at 4:45 a.m. on that Saturday morning, rather than 3:40 a.m., making it almost four hours after a call came in to Detroit police of a parked car struck by McBride.

Worthy said the shooting was unjustified: “We don’t believe he acted in lawful self defense.”

She downplayed the racial element as did the McBride family attorney Gerald Thurswell in an interview with The Daily Beast.

“We make our decisions based on the facts and the evidence,” Worthy said. “It’s always interesting to me what the public makes its decisions on when it comes to one way or the other. We have the facts we have the evidence and we make our decision on that and that alone.”



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