Shortly before 1 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2, a young woman, just a year out of high school, crashed the car she was driving along a residential street on Detroit’s west side.
The woman, Renisha Marie McBride, 19, had veered into a parked car. As people emerged from their houses, she appeared disoriented and troubled, some witnesses said, walking off into the darkness before returning for a time, then walking off again. Someone heard her say she wanted to go home.
Several hours later and six blocks away, just outside the Detroit city limits in this mostly white suburb, Ms. McBride, who was black, was dead on the front porch of a stranger’s home, a shotgun blast to her face.
In the days since, the death has stirred long-simmering racial tensions between mostly black Detroit and its whiter suburbs and provoked comparisons to other racially charged cases around the country. Protesters held a vigil outside the house where she died, whose owner has not been publicly identified. The authorities say he thought Ms. McBride, who tests have shown was intoxicated, was trying to break in.
Anguished family members and friends, wearing shirts with messages like “Justice for Nisha,” say they believe that Ms. McBride was merely seeking help at random homes after the crash, and they were troubled that the man who shot her had not been arrested.
And civil rights activists in Detroit have pointedly recalled the cases of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot last year in a fatal encounter in Florida, and Jonathan Ferrell, a black man who was shot to death by a police officer in Charlotte, N.C., in September when he sought help after a car accident.
The Wayne County prosecutor was expected to announce on Friday whether charges would be brought against the homeowner, but essential details were still lacking to explain how a car accident had led, over a stretch of several hours in the middle of a night, to death on a tiny concrete porch.
Some people here cautioned against presuming that race played a role. Some neighbors of the man, who they said is in his 50s and lives alone in his small house, said the shooting struck them as a tragic accident. Most of all, a long list of questions remained unanswered about events that night, including what actually took place in Ms. McBride’s final moments.
“At the time I didn’t think much of what I was seeing,” said LeDell Hammond, 23, who said he was among a group of neighbors who observed Ms. McBride, seeming dazed, then disappearing, after the car crash along their block of Bramell Street. “But to have this end with that? It’s hard for me to find a way to make it add up.””
– The New York Times, "Fatal Shooting of Black Woman Outside Detroit Stirs Racial Tensions"