Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old African-American shot by a white homeowner on his front porch as she sought help after a car accident in a Detroit suburb, will be buried today. McBride’s family and the Black community are angrily calling on authorities to arrest and charge her assailant.
They are comparing McBride’s death to the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, 17, whose killer George Zimmerman was not arrested for months after the incident.
The case also has similarities to the shooting death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, a former football player at Florida A&M, who was gunned down by Charlotte, N.C., police when he approached the officers for help after his car hit a tree. That incident was prompted by a woman who called 911 and told dispatchers a man was trying to break into her home because Ferrell had been knocking on her door repeatedly seeking help.
In the case of McBride, her family challenged initial reports that the homeowner called police after the shooting, which occurred about 3:40 a.m. Saturday on the porch of a house in the 16000 block of Outer Drive in Dearborn Heights.
“The alleged assailant did not, according to reports, immediately notify the police that the shooting had taken place,” the family’s statement said. “It was reported that instead neighbors contacted police about the shooting. He has not, to date, been arrested.”
The Detroit Branch of the NAACP called for the shooting to be “investigated at every level.”
While the family issued statements saying McBride had been shot in the back of the head as she turned to leave the porch, Dearborn Heights police said that wasn’t true. Police said the homeowner told investigators his shotgun accidentally discharged, hitting the teenager in the face as she stood on his porch.
“This man’s claiming – believed the girl was breaking into the home. And he’s also saying the gun discharged accidentally,” Lt. James Serwatowski, chief detective, said.
“This girl was not shot in the back of the head while leaving the porch,” Serwatowski said “I don’t know where the family is getting this. She was shot in the front of the face, near the mouth.”
Like Florida, Michigan also has a stand-your-ground law, which allows individuals to use deadly force if they feel that their life is in imminent danger or that they are faced with physical harm or sexual assault.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has released a statement saying that it is awaiting further investigation by Dearborn Heights police before deciding whether any criminal charges will be authorized in the case.
“I know the family is anxious to see this man (the alleged shooter) charged, but the prosecutor’s office is telling us they want a lot more information before they make a decision,” Serwatowski said.
McBride’s family said the teen was involved in an auto accident and had gone to the house on Outer Drive for help.
“I’ll confirm that she was in an accident in Detroit and that she left the accident scene, and then some hours transpired” before the shooting, Serwatowski said.
While Serwatowski said the shooting occurred about 3:40 a.m. and the accident happened at about 1:30 a.m., he declined to say what police believe McBride was doing before and after the accident.
Serwatowski said the homeowner’s .12-gauge shotgun was seized by police and is being analyzed by the Michigan State Police Crime Lab.
Activists rallied over McBride’s death outside the Dearborn Heights Police Station last night.
“Black life is not valued in America, not worthy, not respected,” activist Yusef Shaker said at a rally, which was also organized by writer Dream Hampton and Detroit rapper Invincible. “Here was a woman who was seeking help from potential danger and her life was taken…It’s a Trayvon Martin case all over again.”
According to relatives, McBride had been involved in a crash in her white Ford Taurus, about four blocks away from the house where she was killed. Disoriented, she had been walking through the mainly white neighborhood, knocking on doors and seeking help.
While police have refused to identify the shooter, they said he was believed to be in his 50s.
While the city of Detroit, where McBride lived with her mother, is 83 percent black, the suburb of Dearborn Heights is 86 percent white.
McBride had recently started working on the inspection line at a Ford car plant in nearby Dearborn.
“She was sweet. She didn’t get into trouble,” McBride’s aunt Bernita Spinks told the Detroit Free Press.