One thing everyone can agree on is that the shooting of Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old woman who took a bullet to the face after knocking on the door of a residence at the early hours of the morning, is a tragedy. But as information on the event continues to trickle out, a community is demanding to know whether it is no longer safe for a person of color to seek out help from a stranger without endangering their own lives.
According to news reports, McBride was allegedly in a car accident and unable to call for help due to a dead cell phone. After knocking on the door of a home, the owner opened the door and shot her. Initial reports claim the homeowner said he thought he was acting in self-defense. Police continued to investigate the case without any arrest, incensing McBride’s family and many in the community.
In response, a rally was organized by local activists, who demanded more answers into the death of McBride and why, according to them, the police are protecting the shooter’s identity. “We are outraged and demand to know this man’s identity,” writer and filmmaker Dream Hampton said in the release for the event. ”He doesn’t deserve to have his identity protected and we demand his arrest.”
“We need transparency in this case,” Dream Hampton told The Huffington Post. “I was just outraged by this story, I really was. I asked some friends to meet me at the police department to demand some justice.” Friends did indeed gather — over 100 participants joined together to put pressure on the police to arrest the shooter.
Spokespeople from the African American community in Detroit are pressuring the police as well. The Rev. Wendell Anthony, who is the president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, told Detroit News: “This shooting must be investigated at every level. Following the lead of the Dearborn Heights Police Department and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, we must bring to justice any person found guilty of this tragedy. This death appears to be an overreaction to a young woman in need of help.”
McBride’s family agreed. “He shot her in the head … for what? For knocking on his door,” Bernita Spinks, McBride’s aunt, said. “If he felt scared or threatened, he should have called 911. … She went looking for help and now she’s dead.”
The shooter, who is now speaking only through a lawyer, is telling the media that the gun went off accidentally, shooting McBride in the face and killing her. Even if that is the full story, that the homeowner felt the need to open the front door with a loaded gun in his or her hands, at face level and ready to fire, has many wondering if it is ever safe for anyone, especially a person of color, to seek out help without potentially putting themselves in more danger.
Whether or not the shooting was “justifiable” will come down mainly to what we as a society agree is “just.” Is an accident that ends a person’s life less reprehensible than the idea that the homeowner, by loading the gun and pointing it at someone knocking at the door, was fully intending to kill that person anyway because he or she perceived the tiniest threat? At what point did the answer to a stranger knocking in the middle of the night become loading a pistol and opening the door rather than calling for police if you sense a dangerous situation?
The investigation remains open, but hopefully, for the sake of McBride’s family and for everyone, all questions will get answered.