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Anger Grows After Black Woman Is Shot By White Homeowner


In suburban Detroit, the shooting death of a 19-year-old African-American woman by a white man on the front porch of his suburban home has raised anger and racial tension. Michigan Radio's Kate Wells has the story.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Let's lift her name up together. Come on, y'all. Renisha McBride. Renisha McBride.

KATE WELLS, BYLINE: It's been more than a week, and people are still coming out to these candlelit vigils and these rallies to remember Renisha McBride. The 19-year-old Detroiter died here in Dearborn Heights. It's a mostly white suburb right next to Detroit. Police say what happened is that her car crashed around 1 A.M. a week ago Saturday, and then two hours later, around 3 A.M., McBride was shot and killed on the front porch of a suburban home. Police are not releasing the homeowner's name yet, but they are confirmed he shot and killed McBride. He was taken to the police station, where he was questioned and then let go. He told police he thought McBride was trying to break into his house, and that then his shotgun went off accidentally, but McBride's family isn't buying it.

BERNITA SPINX: My niece is gone. Now, right now, the way I'm feeling, I'm feeling it was racist.

WELLS: Bernita Spinx is McBride's aunt. She told the local Fox News station that she believes McBride was just looking for help after her crash.

SPINX: You seen this black African young lady, knocking - not breaking in your house, not breaking a window - knocking for help.

WELLS: McBride's family says they even had to have a closed-casket funeral for McBride because of the gunshot wound to her head. Bernita Spinx, her aunt, says it is unfair that he niece's killer is still free.

SPINX: And he's out of jail? Wow. Could I possibly do that? Somebody knocked at my door, and I pull my shotgun out? Would I be standing here? No. I'd be jail without a bond.

CHERYL CARPENTER: There was a lot of banging. It was a lot of noise, and it didn't sound like just knocking.

WELLS: This is Cheryl Carpenter. She is the homeowner's lawyer. And while she won't give his name, she says he is white. He's 54. He lives alone, and he works full-time. And on the night of this shooting, Carpenter says her client was afraid for his life, and regrets what he says was an accident.

CARPENTER: This is a tragedy for everybody involved. And the homeowner is completely torn up. He realizes another person's life was taken. It was a young woman, and he is devastated by that fact.

WELLS: So far, no eyewitnesses to the shooting have come forward. But Dearborn Heights Police say they do want to arrest the homeowner, but the county prosecutor says more investigation still needs to be done. Meanwhile, attorney Cheryl Carpenter says people are making up their minds before they have all the facts.

CARPENTER: Then you add the racial element into it, the case has now taken a life of its own, and it's not going down the right track.

WELLS: Still, the rallies for Renisha McBride are continuing, and some protestors, like Dream Hamilton, say McBride's death reminds them of Trayvon Martin's, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

DREAM HAMILTON: This is, unfortunately, the strategy we had to take with Trayvon. You know, people have to protest to get an arrest.

WELLS: As anger in the community grows, nobody seems any closer to having an understanding of what actually happened that night on the porch in Dearborn Heights. For NPR News, I'm Kate Wells, in Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter who covers politics, education, public policy and just about everything in between for Iowa Public Radio, and is based in Cedar Rapids. Her work has aired on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. She's also contributed coverage to WNYC in New York, Harvest Public Media, Austin Public Radio (KUT) and the Texas Tribune. Winner of the 2012 regional RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award and NBNA Eric Sevareid Award for investigative reporting, Kate came to Iowa Public Radio in 2010 from New England. Previously, she was a news intern for New Hampshire Public Radio.