August 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

Closing arguments to begin Wednesday in Dearborn Heights porch shooting trial

An emotional Theodore Wafer testifies in his own defense Monday afternoon. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

Detroit — Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday in the murder trial of Theodore Wafer, charged with shooting a woman on his porch in the early hours of Nov. 2.

Wafer, 55, of Dearborn Heights spent a second day on the stand Tuesday, where prosecutors pointed out several inconsistencies in his accounts of the chain of events to police, a 911 dispatcher and during his testimony Monday.

During instructions to jurors Tuesday, Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway referred to parts of Michigan’s self-defense law, called the Castle Doctrine, which states people’s homes are their castles and homeowners do not have a “duty to retreat” from a perpetrator if they feel they are in threat of harm or death. Hathaway also told jurors a porch is part of a person’s home.

Each side will be given an hour for closing arguments.

The shooting of McBride has drawn comparisons to the racially charged Trayvon Martin case in Florida, which also involved a white shooter and a black victim.

Wafer testified Tuesday for about three hours. He was cross-examined by Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Athina Siringas about his recollection of events that led to the shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride of Detroit on his porch around 4:40 a.m. McBride’s family believes she was looking for help when she came up to Wafer’s house after she was injured in a single-car crash about a mile from his home.

Wafer admitted Tuesday he did not tell Dearborn Heights police everything that had taken place at his home on West Outer Drive before he shot McBride around 4:40 a.m.

Siringas pointed out Wafer did not tell a 911 dispatcher that he believed someone was trying to break into his home or that he was in fear when he made the emergency call after the shooting.

Wafer admitted under cross-examination he did not tell police he could not find his cellphone to call for emergency help when he heard the “banging” on his side and front doors. Siringas also pointed out he did not tell Dearborn Heights Lt. James Serwatowski, who interviewed Wafer after he was brought to the police station, that he picked up a bat before arming himself with the shotgun in the incident.

“You never at any time told police you picked up a baseball bat,” Siringas said Tuesday. “All of a sudden when you’re testifying in court you’ve got this intermediate step.”

Wafer said the shooting “happened all so quick” and occurred in about two minutes. He testified Tuesday McBride was not knocking when he shot and he did not exchange any words with her. He said everything was happening in a “split second,” and police did not ask him about some other details about what happened at his home the morning he shot McBride to death.

Siringas asked Wafer if he was a “paranoid person” and if the shooting of McBride was prompted by anger because he believed he was being harassed by neighborhood kids who had paint-balled his car.

“You were mad and wanted to handle this yourself. You never said anything about being scared,” Siringas said. “You were looking for a confrontation. You wanted to show you were armed. You opened the door to go outside.”

Wafer countered: “I wanted to end the confrontation.” He later said he was “hoping that no one would be out there.”

Wafer said he armed himself with his gun in hopes of scaring the person away from his door. When asked by Siringas why he didn’t just yell out for the person to go away, Wafer said, “I didn’t want them to know what side of the house I was at.”

Siringas also asked about his contention the shooting was an accident.

“I did know the gun was loaded,” Wafer said. “I forgot about it … it was in the ready position after I shot. Yes ... the safety was on in the case.” He also told her he shot “on purpose.”

Siringas asked Wafer why he was so afraid of McBride when she was on his porch.

“It was violent banging,” Wafer said. “I still can’t wrap my head around that it was a female banging on my door.”

Wafer became emotional again during questioning by his co-counsel, Cheryl Carpenter.

“You wish this hadn’t happened to you?” she said.

“Of course. I don’t know why this was brought to me,” he said. “I didn’t go looking for this.”

On Monday, a remorseful Wafer recounted the morning of the shooting during defense questioning. He testified in his own defense during two-hour testimony Monday.

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.”

Wafer called police and 911 to report he had just shot and killed someone on his front porch who had been banging on his door.

He said the shooting was “self-defense as far as I’m concerned” but also told police, “I should have called you guys first.”
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