By Manny Otiko
The family of a Black woman who was shot after she sought help from a white homeowner has reached a settlement, according to The Huffington Post. Renisha McBride’s family has settled a wrongful death lawsuit against Theodore Wafer. McBride’s family had initially sought $10 million, but a judge kept the terms of the settlement confidential.
Wafer, a Dearborn Heights, Mich. resident, shot McBride, 19, in November 2013 after she appeared on his porch under the influence of drugs and alcohol. She had just crashed her car and was seeking assistance. Wafer was awakened by pounding on his door. He shot McBride in the face because he said he feared for his life, a claim that was rejected by the jury.
Wafer was later sentenced to 17 to 32 years for second-degree murder. At his sentencing last year, Wafer admitting regret for the shooting. Wafer’s lawyer called the term a “life sentence,” since his client was 55 at the time.
“I will carry that guilt and sorrow forever,” Wafer said. He also apologized to McBride’s family and said she was “too young to leave this world.”
According to attorney Gerald Thurswell, McBride’s parents seemed satisfied with the final decision.
“They were pleased with the settlement,” said Thurswell in an article in HuffPo. “However, they both said that they would give all the money in the world to have their daughter back. There’s nothing left other than to just continue the grieving process.”
He added McBride’s parents have to live with daily reminders that their child is no longer around.
“This is their baby. If you were to talk to both of them, there’s not a day that goes by that they don’t think about her,” he said. “It was such a needless, needless killing.”
Although race was rarely mentioned during the trial, the case had undercurrents of racial tensions. Activists suggested McBride’s race was one of the primary reasons why Wafer opted to shoot on that fateful November night.
Wafer was convicted a few days before Michael Brown was killed by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer. Nationwide protests against Brown’s killing developed into the Black Lives Matter movement. Activists used McBride’s death as a way to raise awareness about how black women’s lives are often devalued. They pointed out the racial dynamics of a situation where an armed, white homeowner felt threatened by an unarmed Black teenage girl.
“It’s clear that had Renisha been white, and had all other circumstances been the same — she would have lived,” said Sheila Bedi, Northwestern University School of Law associate professor, in a HuffPost blog post. At the time, the Rev. Al Sharpton compared the case to the Trayvon Martin killing.
In her blog, Bedi pointed out Wafer lived in a community known for its troubled racial past. “Renisha’s murderer came from a community that for almost 40 years, was lead by Mayor Orville Hubbard, who was famously known as the most devout segregationist north of the Mason-Dixon Line,” Bedi wrote. “[Hubbard] was beloved by his community. And he was a public, vehement racist. (Renisha was murdered in Dearborn Heights — a town that was annexed from Dearborn in the 1960s and one that shares overlapping public schools and culture with Dearborn).”
Bedi said Dearborn continues to have racial problems today.
“In the 1990s, allegations surfaced that Dearborn Police were targeting Black motorists — who comprised less than 1 percent of the total population but 90 percent of those pulled over by police for alleged traffic violations. More recently, Arab-Americans reported being barred from voting,” she said. “This is a place where white supremacy runs deep.”