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Detroit-area homeowner will stand trial for shooting death of teen

A suburban Detroit man who fatally shot a teen on his porch in the middle of the night last month will stand trial for murder.

Prosecutors presented sufficient evidence for Theodore Wafer, 54, to stand trial on charges that he killed Renisha McBride, 19, in the early morning hours of Nov. 2, Wayne County District Court Judge David Turfe said.

The racially charged case in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, triggered protests that attracted national attention and drew comparisons to the 2012 shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. 

Turfe said Wafer had other choices available to him when he went to his front door that night, but chose otherwise. 

McBride, a black woman, knocked on Wafer’s door in Dearborn Heights, Mich. Wafer, a white homeowner, answered the knock with shotgun in hand.

"The defendant came to the door with a shotgun," Turfe said. "His first thought was to bring the gun, not call for help or not answer the door." 

Wafer fired one shot at close range to McBride’s head. She died shortly after.

"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. 

McBride was in a car accident three hours before knocking on Wafer’s door. McBride’s autopsy showed that she had smoked marijuana and had a blood alcohol content of .22, about three times Michigan's legal limit to operate a motor vehicle of .08. A doctor testified that the alcohol and drugs could have impacted her demeanor, but were not the cause of death.

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," Carpenter said.

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.