Man Who Shot Unarmed Teen on His Porch Gets Just Prison Sentence

Porch RailA Detroit man who shot and killed an unarmed teenager was sentenced Wednesday to 17 years in prison for second-degree murder, manslaughter, and unlawful use of a gun. Theodore Wafer was convicted last month of killing 19-year-old Renisha McBride on his front porch after she presumably came looking for help after a car accident in the middle of the night.

The 55-year-old said at the sentencing that he would live with the "guilt and sorrow forever." The black teen had showed up on his doorstep at 4:30 A.M. last November 2. Wafer claimed to have "feared for his life" when he shot her, and attempted to claim self-defense.


Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway said, "Although the evidence clearly showed that Miss McBride made some terrible choices that night, none of them justified taking her life ... I do not believe that you're a cold-blooded murderer or that this case had anything to do with race or that you're some sort of monster.

"I do believe that you acted out of some fear but mainly anger and panic," Hathaway continued. "An unjustified fear is never an excuse for taking someone's life ... So what do we have? One life gone and one life ruined."

McBride's autopsy report revealed that she was "extremely drunk" at the time of the shooting. She had crashed her car about a half a mile away, and no one knows exactly why or how she ended up on Wafer's front porch.

Adding to the controversy of the case is the fact that McBride was black, Wafer is white, and lives in a predominantly white neighborhood. Many wondered if race was a factor in the case, but it was hardly mentioned during the trial.

As he was sentenced, Wafer told the judge that he knew he had killed a woman "too young to leave this world," and, "I will carry that guilt and sorrow forever."

Defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter said it was a virtual "death sentence," citing his age and working class history. Wafer suffers from health problems after a career as a laborer working outdoor maintenance at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The victim's sister, Jasmine McBride, said, "Somewhere down the line in life, I have to forgive you in order to be accepted into heaven ... but I will never forget the pain, the hurt, the heartache or the devastation you caused my family."

That's really it. It is a crappy, crappy situation, but if this really wasn't a self-defense case, Wafer needs to do his time. He shot a girl in the face on his porch. An unarmed girl. It would be different if she had come after him with a gun, or was beating his head into the sidewalk or something, but it seems like she was likely just incoherently drunk. Heck, he didn't even have to open the door if he was scared of her.

But if Wafer were to get off on self-defense, when it seems he was just scared and not really defending himself from immediate threat, it's going to open a whole can of worms for other potential cases. Self-defense laws need to be clear, and only used when someone is protecting themselves from death or grave bodily harm.

Do you think this sentencing is fair?


Image via Marisa McClellan/Flickr

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