Firearms expert testifies in porch shooting trial

August 4, 2014

DETROIT (AP) — A firearms expert testified Monday that a Detroit-area homeowner and an unarmed 19-year-old woman on his porch were both apparently standing close to his screen door when he shot her through it, killing her.

Retired Michigan State Police trooper David Balash said the hole in the door made by Theodore Wafer's 12-gauge shotgun shows it was near the door when he fired it. He said the buckshot wounds on Renisha McBride's body show she was standing near the door when Wafer shot her last fall.

"My opinion is she was very close to the door ... within a foot," Balash told the Wayne County Circuit Court jury at the outset of the seventh day of testimony in the trial.

Wafer, 55, is charged with second-degree murder in McBride's death. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison with the possibility of parole. To acquit Wafer, the jury would have to find that he shot McBride because he had a reasonable and honest fear for his life.

Wafer says he shot McBride in self-defense after she showed up drunk on his porch in Dearborn Heights at around 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 2.

But prosecutors say Wafer didn't need to use deadly force against McBride and that he could remained in his home with the front door locked and called 911 instead of shooting her.

An autopsy found McBride's blood-alcohol level was about 0.22, which is nearly three times Michigan's legal limit for driving. About 3½ hours before Wafer killed her, McBride crashed her car into a parked vehicle on a Detroit street about half away.

It is not clear how or why she showed up on Wafer's porch. They didn't know each other.

Dr. Werner Spitz, a former medical examiner, testified last week that a laceration on McBride's hand shows she may have injured it while pounding on Wafer's door. But the doctor who performed the autopsy found nothing remarkable about her hand.

Civil rights activists immediately seized on race after the November shooting — Wafer is white and McBride was black — and some likened it to the 2012 killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. But race faded as an issue in the case and wasn't mentioned as a factor during court hearings that preceded the trial.