In Detroit, the Case of Renisha McBride Continues to Resonate

Many residents say the case of the 19-year-old woman shot by a white man as she sought help tells an all too common story about gun violence and safety.

Posted: 11/13/2013 05:57 PM EST

Increasingly, it is being compared with the case of Trayvon Martin.

For residents in and around Detroit, the death of Renisha McBride has attained the emotional resonance that has many people saying it has gripped them with the same depth and revulsion that they felt about the 17-year-old Florida student who was killed by George Zimmerman.

Renisha McBride was a 19-year-old woman who was killed in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights on Nov. 2 when she looked for assistance after she had a car accident, her family said. She was shot in the face and killed by a white resident at whose home she sought help.

While the story has permeated newspapers, televisions and websites around the country, it seems to have left many African-Americans in the Detroit area transfixed as they focus on what this incident says about gun violence, safety and racial profiling.

“This was a young woman who was seeking help and refuge and was shot in the face at 4 in the morning,” said Tawana Petty, a poet and activist who has been particularly outspoken about the death of McBride.

“She was shot in a neighborhood that, for all intents and purposes, she should have been safe in,” Petty told BET.com. “It’s devastating to me because I feel the justice system is going to let him walk. He hasn’t even been charged with anything or arrested.”

She added:  “I’m devastated because, as a Black woman, I know that we can get attacked and shot and there is no protection. We don’t feel a sense of protection in our own community or in other communities.”

Petty’s perspective is a common one in Detroit, one that is being played out on talk radio, community meetings and churches and in cyberspace.

The prosecutor’s office said it is waiting for information from the Dearborn Heights Police Department before determining what to do in terms of charging the shooter, whose name has not been disclosed by police.

"The Wayne County prosecutor's office is waiting for several items relating to the investigation from the Dearborn Heights Police Department at this time,” a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said. “We have begun the warrant review process. News will be released when a charging decision has been made.”

In the last few days, the results of an autopsy report were released, saying that McBride was shot in the face, a key fact that supports the concept that she was facing the shooter. However, the autopsy does not make clear how much distance there was between McBride and the weapon that killed her.

In the meantime, it continues to be an issue that has become a central topic of Black residents in and around Detroit, which has been shaken by a number of killings of young African-Americans in recent months.

The incident has attracted a good deal of attention nationally, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network, has called for an investigation, saying there parallels to the case of Trayvon Martin, whose shooter was not charged or arrested for weeks after the killing.

There are so many incidents of violence in and around Detroit and people are especially upset by the fact that a number of them go unsolved,” said the Rev. David A. Bullock, the pastor of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church and head of Change Agent Consortium, a civil rights organization in Detroit.

“She has become part of a string of folks who get killed and where no one gets charged or where the case is in limbo," Bullock said, speaking with BET.com. People are feeling that law enforcement is something that has become obsolete when it comes to Black people and people in the Black community, and that’s deeply disturbing.”

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(Photo: AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Kimberly P. Mitchell) 

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