Last week, a 19-year-old Detroit woman was shot and killed on the front porch of a home in Dearborn Heights. Police are still investigating, but the homeowner is saying that it was an accidental shooting. He apparently thought that the woman, Renisha McBride, was an intruder, but that he did not mean to fire the gun; that it discharged accidentally. In fact, she was involved in an automobile accident and was seeking assistance. Early press reports seem to suggest that the homeowner told the police it was an accident. Now, retained counsel has stated that his actions were “justified”.
A claim that the shooting was justified may well bring national attention on Michigan’s version of the “stand your ground” legislations that various states have enacted. The theory is that you have no duty to retreat from your own home and you can use deadly force in self-defense if you reasonably believe that you are in immediate danger of being killed or subjected to great bodily harm. This defense may be difficult to establish in a case where the shooter tells the police that the shooting was an accident.
Either way, this case is a horrible tragedy. A family has lost a loved one, and many are demanding that charges be filed against the homeowner. A homeowner feels the need to keep a firearm in the house for his own protection and ends up killing someone who meant no harm and was actually seeking his help.
It is our second amendment right in the United States to keep and bear arms. With that right comes a responsibility. Whether it was an accidental shooting or not, whether it was intentional or careless, the fact is that an innocent person is dead. Lives have been changed and turned upside down in an instant.
As with any gun owner who uses a firearm in self-defense, this homeowner is now facing many questions and some difficult decisions. National media, politicians and civil rights leaders are now leading us in the familiar debate about firearms. In this case, there is no assault rifle or high volume clips. There is just a scared homeowner and a now deceased victim who reached out for help and lost her life in the process.
My heart grieves for the family of Renisha McBride but also for the homeowner because I know the legal battles he faces if charged. Even if he does not get prosecuted criminally, he is facing a long court battle in the civil litigation. Unfortunately, no amount of money will make this family whole again.
Mr. Cronkright is a trial attorney at Kronzek & Cronkright, PLLC. He represents clients in all criminal matters and Child Protective Proceedings.