Ted Wafer testifies in his own defense. (Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)
Detroit — Alternately regretful and defensive, Theodore Wafer cried in court Monday as he recounted the shooting that killed 19-year-old Renisha McBride on his front porch last fall, yet said he felt compelled to fire his gun for his own safety.
Wafer, 55, testified in his own defense in the second-degree murder trial in the Nov. 2 death of McBride. The case that has drawn comparisons to the racially charged Trayvon Martin case, which also involved a white shooter and a black victim.
When Wafer’s co-counsel, Cheryl Carpenter, asked him if he thought often about the shooting, the defendant, breathing hard, said yes.
“So devastating,” he testified. “This poor girl. She had her whole life in front of her. I took that from her,” Wafer said, crying and holding his hands together.
He said the incident happened “too fast ... too fast.”
As Wafer spoke about McBride’s death, a woman in the jury cried quietly into a tissue. But some other courtroom spectators said in hushed voices that Wafer’s display of emotion was an act.
Later, he said he pulled the trigger “to protect myself, to save myself. It was them or me.”
He added: “I can’t explain it ... I went to sleep that night. I didn’t expect I’d have to fight for my life and end up shooting and killing someone.”
The evening before the shooting, Wafer testified, he had gone to a nearby pub, where he had about three beers before going to bed around 10:30 p.m., a little more than six hours before the fatal gunfire.
Wafer described the events leading up to the shooting, testifying that early Nov. 2, he heard a “loud banging” at the front door of his home on West Outer Drive and got out of his recliner, where he had been sleeping, to investigate.
The noise got progressively louder, and Wafer said he grabbed a baseball bat, then decided he needed his gun because someone was trying to get inside. “I didn’t want to be a victim,” he testified. Under questioning, Wafer said the noise made him mad.
Wafer, who testified for an hour Monday, said he looked out the peephole of his front door, then opened it a couple of inches with his right hand, his gun in his left.
“This is not good,” he testified. “The person came around from the right of my house so fast and I raised the gun and shot.” Wafer said he saw someone who “fell back in slow motion.”
Wafer said he saw a shorter, dark-complexioned person with boots “maybe a woman ... would wear” and then put the gun down.
Asked why he opened the door and fired, Wafer answered, “I thought they were going to come through ... I didn’t want to cower. I didn’t want to be a victim in my own house.”
After the shooting at about 4:42 a.m., Wafer called 911 to report that he has just shot and killed someone on his front porch who had been banging on his door.
McBride’s family says she was shot while looking for assistance following an auto accident about a mile from Wafer’s home on West Outer near Warren.
Wayne County assistant prosecutor Athina Siringas began cross-examination of Wafer late Monday afternoon, asking him, “Do you remember crying for two to three hours after you shot and killed Renisha McBride?”
Jurors were shown a 42-minute video of Dearborn Heights police questioning a calm Wafer, who drank a beverage out of a coffee cup as he discussed the shooting.
In the recording, Wafer is seen telling police it sounded like someone was jiggling the screen door on the side, trying to get into his house.
“It did not seem like ... somebody asking for help,” Wafer said during the interrogation.
He also tells police he did not know McBride, who was a contract employee for Ford Motor Co., and couldn’t figure out why a woman would be trying to get into his home.
In the footage, police repeatedly ask him if the shooting was connected to prostitution and Wafer tells them that he doesn’t entertain prostitutes and that he did not know McBride, adding that he thought she was a “neighbor’s kid.”
He said the shooting was “self-defense as far as I’m concerned” but also told police, “I should have called you guys first.”
In testimony earlier Monday, Wafer said he bought the gun used in the shooting six years ago to protect himself.
“I wasn’t getting any younger,” he testified about the gun purchase, noting that he had been living alone for a long time and thought it was time to get some security. Wafer said he has lived in the house since 1994.
He said he loaded the gun more than a month before the Nov. 2 shooting after his and his neighbor’s cars were paint-balled.
Wafer testified that over time, crime has worsened in his neighborhood, and that he finds liquor bottles and drug paraphernalia on his property. “Weekends are the worst,” he said.
The cross-examination of Wafer continues today.
Earlier, David Balash, a retired Michigan State Police detective and firearms expert, was the second expert for the defense to testify that McBride was shot at close range — from two feet or less.
The prosecution rested its case Wednesday.