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'Unjustified': Opening Arguments Heard in Porch-Shooting Death

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Opening arguments were presented and the first witnesses were called Wednesday in the trial of a suburban Detroit man charged with fatally shooting a woman on his porch, with a prosecutor calling the defendant's actions "unnecessary, unjustified, and unreasonable." Theodore Wafer, 55, who is white, faces second-degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm charges in the Nov. 2 killing of Renisha McBride, 19, who was black and was unarmed. The case has been likened to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark played Wafer's 911 call, in which he says he shot someone on his front porch, and showed a graphic photo of McBride after she was shot. "His actions that night were unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable. Because of what he did that night, a 19-year-old girl is dead on a porch in Dearborn Heights."

Defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter showed jurors a diagram of Wafer's house and told them Wafer was sleeping soundly when he heard banging on his front door at around 4:30 a.m. "His heart is racing," Carpenter said, as Wafer sat quietly in court, listening. Looking out his peephole, Wafer saw a "shadowy figure," Carpenter said, and thought he may have seen two or more people — not McBride alone, who, as a toxicology report later revealed, was drunk. As the banging persisted, Wafer searched for his cellphone. Terrified intruders were going to break in at any moment, he grabbed his shotgun instead of continuing to look for his phone, the attorney said. "He sees half a figure, and he shoots."

After opening arguments, the first two witnesses were called to the stand: Monica McBride, Renisha's mother, who said she had seen her daughter the night she was killed and had asked her to stay home because she hadn't completed her chores; and Amber Jenkins, McBride's best friend, who had been playing drinking games and smoking marijuana with McBride the night of her death.

McBride got testy during the drinking game because she was a "sore loser," Jenkins said, so Jenkins left around 8 or 9 p.m. The two had no communication after that, she testified.

Later, Carmen Beasley, whose husband's car was rear-ended by McBride's a few hours before her death, took the stand. Beasley said she had noticed that McBride had blood on her hand and had called for an ambulance for her. But McBride told her she needed to go home and walked away before help arrived, Beasley said. The house where she was shot was about a half-mile away.

Court adjourned after the last witness of the day, Dearborn Heights Police Department Cpl. Ruben Gonzalez, testified that Wafer was cooperative when Gonzalez responded to the scene and took him in for questioning.

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— Elizabeth Chuck and Scott Newell