TIME weather

Heavy Flooding in Detroit Leaves 1 Dead, Tens of Thousands Without Power

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TIME Crime

Man Who Shot Unarmed Woman on Porch Convicted of Murder

Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2014.
Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2014. Rebecca Cook—Reuters

Could face life in prison for killing unarmed teen

A Michigan man was convicted of second degree murder Thursday for killing an unarmed woman on his porch last year.

Dearborn Heights resident Theodore Wafer, who is white, was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter charges and felony firearm charges, and could face life in prison for the death of 19-year old Renisha McBride, who was black.

“We are obviously very pleased with the jury verdict and feel that justice was served today,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. “We sincerely hope that this brings some comfort to the family of Renisha McBride.” Wafer will be sentenced later this month.

McBride was killed last November when she sought help at Wafer’s home after crashing her car nearby. Wafer testified that he thought McBride was trying to break into his home. “I was not going to cower,” he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. I didn’t want to be a victim in my own house.” Wafer also testified that he shot McBride as a “total reflex.”

McBride’s death has frequently been compared to the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teen who was killed in a case that ignited national debate about race, gun laws and so-called Stand Your Ground laws. Martin’s alleged killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of second-degree murder last year.

TIME justice

Detroit-Area Porch Shooter Convicted of Murder

Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2014.
Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2014. Rebecca Cook—Reuters

(DETROIT) — A jury convicted a suburban Detroit homeowner of second-degree murder and manslaughter on Thursday in the killing of a drunk, unarmed woman on his porch last year, rejecting his claim that he was afraid for his life and had acted in self-defense.

Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride through a screen door on Nov. 2, hours after she crashed into a parked car a half-mile from his house. No one knows why she ended up at the Dearborn Heights home, although prosecutors speculated that the 19-year-old woman may have been seeking help.

“She just wanted to go home,” prosecutor Patrick Muscat said during closing arguments, holding the shotgun Wafer used to kill McBride. “She ended up in the morgue with bullets in her head and in her brain because the defendant picked up this shotgun, released this safety, raised it at her, pulled the trigger and blew her face off.”

The Wayne County jury heard eight days of testimony before beginning deliberations. Wafer, 55, could face up to life in prison with the possibility of parole, but it is likely his actual sentence will be much shorter.

Wafer, an airport maintenance employee who lives alone, said he was roused out of sleep around 4:30 a.m. by pounding at his front and side doors. He testified that the noises were “unbelievable.”

“I wasn’t going to cower in my house,” Wafer said.

He said he thought there could have been more than one person outside of his 1,100-square-foot home near the Detroit-Dearborn Heights border. Wafer said he pulled the trigger “to defend myself. It was them or me.”

“He armed himself. He was getting attacked,” defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter told jurors. “Put yourselves in his shoes at 4:30 in the morning.”

But prosecutors said Wafer could have stayed safely in his locked home and called 911 instead of confronting McBride.

“He had so many other options. … We wouldn’t be here if he had called police first,” Muscat told the jury.

TIME justice

Porch Killing Defendant: ‘I Wasn’t Going to Cower’

Theodore Wafer testifies in his own defense during the seventh day of testimony for the Nov. 2, 2013, killing of Renisha McBride, on Aug. 4, 2014, in Detroit.
Theodore Wafer testifies in his own defense during the seventh day of testimony for the Nov. 2, 2013, killing of Renisha McBride, on Aug. 4, 2014, in Detroit. Clarence Tabb Jr.—AP

(DETROIT) — A suburban Detroit man said Monday that he was afraid when someone showed up on his porch before dawn one morning last year and started banging on his doors, but he wasn’t going to be a victim in his own home.

“I wasn’t going to cower in my house,” Theodore Wafer told jurors at his trial for the Nov. 2 killing of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, who was drunk but unarmed.

Wafer is charged with second-degree murder and could be sentenced to up to life in prison with the chance for parole, if he’s convicted. He says he shot McBride in self-defense, but prosecutors say Wafer could have stayed safely behind his locked doors and called 911 instead of confronting McBride, whom he didn’t know.

Wafer, 55, took the stand on the seventh day of testimony. Legal experts had speculated that he would have to testify in his own defense to convince the jury that he had a reasonable and honest fear for his life that morning.

Softly and methodically, Wafer told the Wayne County Circuit Court jury how he followed loud bangs from his front door to his side door and back to the front again before fetching his 12-gauge shotgun.

He said he opened the front door slightly and saw that the outer, screen door was damaged. He then opened the inner door further and “this person came out from the side of my house so fast. I raised the gun and shot,” he told jurors after taking the stand on the seventh day of testimony.

Wafer also said he thought there could have been more than one person outside of his 1,100-square-foot home near Detroit’s far west side. He said he pulled the trigger “to defend myself. It was them or me.”

When police arrived, McBride lay in a pool of blood just off the porch.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, some questioned whether race may have been a factor. Wafer is white and McBride was black, and some likened the killing to that of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. But race faded as an issue and wasn’t mentioned as a factor by prosecutors or defense attorneys during court hearings that preceded the trial.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutors played a recording of Wafer telling an officer that he didn’t know the gun was loaded. They contend that Wafer didn’t need to use deadly force against McBride

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.

Occasionally rubbing the right side of his head and speaking with his eyes closed, Wafer testified that he couldn’t afford to install a security system at his home, so he bought the shotgun about six years ago to help him defend it. Wafer also said the neighborhood had changed greatly since he bought the house in 1994.

Earlier Monday, a firearms expert testified for the defense that Wafer and McBride were both apparently standing close to his screen door when he shot her through it, killing her.

Retired state Trooper David Balash said the hole in the door made by the shotgun blast shows it was near the door when he fired it. He said the buckshot wounds on 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 jury.

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

Prosecutors played a Wafer’s videotaped interview with police after the shooting before ending testimony Monday afternoon. He is expected back on the stand Tuesday morning.

TIME Crime

Former Detroit Tiger Charged with Sexual Assault of Michigan Woman

Detroit Tigers pitcher Evan Reed throws against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning of a baseball game in Detroit on May 6, 2014.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Evan Reed throws against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning of a baseball game in Detroit on May 6, 2014. Paul Sancya—AP

Evan Reed is accused of sexually assaulting a 45-year-old woman in late March, while knowing the victim was "physically helpless or mentally incapacitated or mentally incapable to consent"

A former Detroit Tigers pitcher was charged with sexual assault on Wednesday for allegedly attacking a woman he met at a bar in March. Evan Reed, 28, a minor league pitcher for the Toledo Mud Hens, is accused of committing the alleged rape while the victim was “physically helpless or mentally incapacitated or mentally incapable to consent,” according to a release from the Wayne County Prosecutors office.

The victim, a 45-year-old woman from Oakland County, says she “began to feel odd” after finishing a drink at a bar in Royal Oak, Mich. The alleged assault took place in late March.

The Wayne County Prosecutors office has charged Reed with two counts of criminal sexual conduct, which could result in a maximum of 15 years behind bars. Reed is expected in a Detroit court on Thursday.

Reed’s lawyer called the charges “ridiculous” in a statement Wednesday, saying the 28-year-old has been cooperative and the evidence should prove he is not guilty.

“Evan fully cooperated with the police, gave witness statements, and provided other documentation supporting his innocence. Evan will be demanding a speedy trial and is looking forward to his day in court where he will be vindicated of any alleged wrongdoing,” lawyers Ben M. Gonek and David Gorcyca said in a joint statement. “When 12 jurors hear the facts of this case, there is no doubt in our minds they will find Evan not guilty of the charged offenses.”

The Detroit Tigers organization is also reportedly “closely monitoring” the situation. “As an organization, we take matters like this very seriously, and we are closely monitoring the situation,” the Tigers said in a statement. “Evan Reed’s representatives are handling his legal proceeding that must run its course before there is any further comment from the ballclub.”

TIME Crime

Detroit 8-Year-Old Shot Dead in His Sleep

Jakari Pearson was killed in the early hours of Wednesday morning

An eight-year-old boy was fatally shot Wednesday whilst sleeping in his Detroit home, the Detroit News reports. Police are interviewing a man identified as a “person of interest.”

Jakari Pearson was killed in the early hours of the morning in his bed in Detroit’s near east side. The Detroit Police Department said shots were fired around 1.15am into the home.

Pearson was hit once in the upper body and taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His mother was also wounded, though her condition is unknown. Family at the site of the shooting said the gunman may have been a former partner of the boy’s mother.

“The person we are talking to has not been arrested or been identified as a suspect in the shooting,” a Detroit Police spokesperson said. “He’s nothing more than a person of interest in this case and is being interviewed.”

The spokesperson, Sgt. Michael Woody added: “We have a pretty good idea of who it is that we are looking for… We hope the community continues to talk to us and feeds us information so we can track this individual down and get him into custody very quickly.”

[The Detroit News]

 

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TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 22

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Ukraine rebels turn over bodies from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17; Kerry seeks Gaza cease-fire; Detroit suspends water shutoffs; One of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research; Georgia GOP primary; 10 years since the 9/11 Commission report

  • “After days of resistance, pro-Russian rebels on Monday yielded some ground in the crisis surrounding downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17—handing over passengers’ bodies, relinquishing the plane’s black boxes and pledging broader access for investigators to the crash site.” [WashPost]
    • Why Putin Is Willing to Take Big Risks in Ukraine [WSJ]
    • “The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 exposes the truth about RT, the Russian English-language propaganda outlet.” [TIME]
  • Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day.” [Reuters]
  • “Whether the Afghan forces can sustain themselves in the critical districts the Green Berets will be ceding to them is an urgent question all over the country. The answer will help define America’s legacy in Afghanistan, much as it has in Iraq, where the Iraqi forces have fallen apart in combat.” [NYT]
  • “Congress and the President have finally found some common ground: Obama will sign the first significant legislative job training reform effort in nearly a decade on Tuesday.” [TIME]
  • Breakthrough on VA Reform Bill? [Hill]
  • “President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order aimed at protecting workers at federal contractors and in the federal government from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” [Politico]
  • “The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills.” [Detroit Free Press]
  • “…the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center, announced a $650 million donation for psychiatric research from the Stanley Family Foundation—one of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research. It comes at a time when basic research into mental illness is sputtering, and many drug makers have all but abandoned the search for new treatments.” [NYT]
  • Jack Kingston’s Insider Advantage [NJ]
  • “The evidence for a left-wing challenge to Clinton that could defeat her is thin to nonexistent.” [Slate]
  • “Ten years ago today, we released The 9/11 Commission Report to the government and the American public…” [USA Today]
TIME Detroit

Detroit to Temporarily Halt Water Shutoffs

Customers have an additional 15 days to come forward if they cannot pay

The Detroit Water and Sewage Department announced Monday that it will halt its impending water shutoffs for 15 days to allow residents more time to show they cannot pay their bills.

The announcement occurred the same day 10 residents, along with several organizations, filed a lawsuit asking Detroit’s U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to restore service, the Detroit Free Press reports.

More than 7,500 customers had their water shut off by the city in April and May as part of the financially troubled city’s crackdown on unpaid bills following a long period of lax enforcement.

“In case we have missed someone who has legitimate affordability problems, this will allow them to come to us to see if they can work out payments,” said DWSD spokesman Bill Johnson, who said that he was unaware of the lawsuit. “We’ve always maintained that what we were doing was a collection effort — not a shutoff effort.”

Residents and community activists claim the city is violating constitutional and contractual rights by ending water service for those who owe money.

“Water provided through public utilities is a necessity of modern life and continued access to it is a property right accorded due process protections,” read the lawsuit filed Monday.

On Friday, Kevyn Orr, the city’s emergency manager, said that no one who could not afford water would have to go without it.

The department’s director, Darryl Latimer, said the city is beginning outreach efforts to educate residents about financial assistance and payment options to those with a documented need.

[Detroit Free Press]

TIME Crime

Trial Begins in Porch Shooting of Unarmed Detroit Teen

This undated file photo is the cover of a funeral program showing 19-year-old Renisha McBride from a service in Detroit.
This undated file photo is the cover of a funeral program showing 19-year-old Renisha McBride from a service in Detroit. AP

Jury selection in Theodore Wafer's murder trial set to begin Monday

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the trial of Theodore Wafer, 55, who is charged with shooting and killing an unarmed 19-year-old Detroit woman on his front porch.

Wafer shot Renisha McBride in the head with a shotgun at his suburban Detroit home in November, after the inebriated teenager pounded on his door in the middle of the night.

Prosecutors believe McBride was seeking help from Wafer after crashing into a parked car some blocks away. The defense argues Wafer feared for his life and acted in self-defense when he shot her. Wafer has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. According to the Associated Press, he faces life in prison if convicted.

The defense is reportedly working to paint McBride as aggressive and violent. According to the Detroit Free Press, the judge has ruled against allowing the jury to see McBride’s cellphone photos or text messages at the time of trial, which the defense wanted to support their claims. The jury will likely hear testimony about crime in Detroit, and the Dearborn Heights suburb where McBride was shot.

“If Ms. McBride had stayed at the scene of her car crash, where help was on the way, Mr. Wafer would never have been put in the situation … to use deadly force to protect himself,” defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter said, the Associated Press reports.

The prosecution plans to argue that the use of deadly force was unnecessary. “Someone who claims lawful self-defense must have an honest and reasonable — not honest or reasonable — belief of imminent death or imminent great bodily harm,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said, when she filed charges.

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