Black Detroit Woman Shot To Death While Seeking Help In White Neighborhood After Car Crash
(There have been many developments since this story initially broke. See here.)
If you thought what happened to Jonathan Ferrell last month was horrific, wait until you hear about the slaying of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.
At around 2:30am on Saturday morning, McBride got into a car accident near Dearborn Heights, a suburb around Detroit. Her cell phone battery was dead so she went to nearby home to seek help. But after knocking on the door, McBride was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. (Update: Homeowner claims shotgun discharged accidentally.)
Dearborn Heights police initially told McBride’s family that her body was found dumped near Warren Avenue and Outer Drive, but that story quickly changed. Not only are police refusing to release the identity of the man who shot McBride, they’re now saying she was mistaken for an intruder and shot in self-defense on the homeowner’s front porch. Even if that’s the case, and there’s reason to believe it’s not, the shooter still failed to call 911 after shooting an unarmed woman in the head, instead leaving her there to die. Does that sound like the behavior of a law-abiding gunowner who made a tragic mistake?
Bernita Spinks, McBride’s aunt, told The Detroit News that the shooting was unjustified regardless of whether or not the shooter believed she was an intruder.
“He shot her in the head … for what? For knocking on his door,” said Spinks on Tuesday. “If he felt scared or threatened, he should have called 911.”
Spinks said the family met with officials from the Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday. Spinks said she believes her niece was racially profiled.
“You see a young black lady on your porch and you shoot?” said Spinks.
“He killed my niece and he needs to pay for it. He needs to be in jail.
“There was no window broken. My niece didn’t bother anyone. She went looking for help and now she’s dead.”
Detroit News reports that police, despite changing the initial story, sent a request to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office today asking for charges to be filed against the man who shot Mcbride. But that’s no guarantee the charges will stick given that Michigan is a Stand Your Ground state. And, as is usually the case with Stand Your Ground, race may have played a role in McBride’s death.
The problem with a law like Stand Your Ground is that it excuses and encourages deadly force against “perceived” threats. In the United States, where implicit and structural racism persists on a vast scale, is it wise to empower people who almost certainly have irrational and racist fears, to kill instead of call police who are trained (at least they’re supposed to be) to deal with potential threats?
Race also appears to play a significant role in whether a homicide is deemed justifiable. A recent study conducted by John Roman of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center found, “the odds that a white-on-black homicide is ruled to have been justified is more than 11 times the odds a black-on-white shooting is ruled justified,” a reflection of the racial disparities that plague all aspects of the US criminal justice system.
Regardless of your position on Stand Your Ground, one thing is for sure. The family of 19-year-old Renisha McBride deserves answers.
Detroit Free Press reporters Niraj Warikoo and Bill Laitner uncovered new details surrounding Renisha McBride’s death. Among the most shocking revelations is that, according to McBride’s family, she was shot in the back of the head as she turned to leave the porch of the home she had sought help from.
Bernita Spinks, McBride’s aunt, told Free Press that the man who killed her niece was arrested but then released. She added that McBride was “disoriented” and “scared” after her 2001 Ford Taurus was struck by another car about four blocks from where she was killed. After the crash, she parked and walked to find help, “knocking on people’s doors,” said Spinks, who went on to compare the shooting to that of Trayvon Martin.
As for the fate of McBride’s killer:
A warrant request was submitted to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday, but the office has asked police for further investigation before a decision is made on whether any criminal charges will be authorized, according to Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.