In the aftermath of an arrest in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, several activists and leaders in Detroit are hailing the fact that some movement has been taken in the case that has quickly become a national story about gun violence.
Theodore Wafer, a 54-year-old resident of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, was charged over the weekend with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of the young woman whose family says was seeking assistance after having been involved in car accident.
The shooting of McBride, who is African-American, has become a racially-charged issue of great controversy in the Detroit area and has been followed by the media throughout the country, comparing it to the killing of Trayvon Martin in early 2012. Wafer, who is white, had not been identified by police authorities until the arrest.
Several local residents and activists say they are pleased that an arrest was made, although they question why it took so long after the incident, which took place Nov. 2.
“I feel that things are finally headed in the right direction,” said Tawana Petty, a poet and activist who has been particularly outspoken about the death of McBride, speaking in an interview with BET.com.
“On the other hand, I’m afraid that this may well lower the temperature regarding this case,” Petty added. “I’m afraid that people will think that things are fine because there has been an arrest and not hold the justice system accountable."
She said that there were lessons learned from death of Trayvon Martin that can be applied in the case involving McBride.
“We saw in the Trayvon Martin case that, just because an arrest has been made, it doesn’t mean that justice is going to be served,” she said, referring to the fact that George Zimmerman was acquitted of a second-degree murder charged in the death of Martin.
“There are still media reports where they don’t even use the name of the man who shot her, which means he’s still being protected. I hope this is not a moment, but instead part of a larger movement.”
The case has generated strong outrage from civil rights groups in Detroit and beyond, who have called for an investigation. They have contended that race might have played a role in the killing of the young African-American woman, saying it was a case of racial profiling.
However, prosecutors have said that they do not consider race to be a factor in the shooting.
"In this case, the charging decision has absolutely nothing to do with the race of the parties," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said at a news conference.
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(Photo: Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/MCT/Landov)