A white man from Michigan on Friday was found guilty of assault for firing his shotgun at an African-American teenager who merely wanted to ask for directions to school.
On the morning of April 12th, a 14-year-old boy Brennan Walker slept through his alarm and missed his school bus to Rochester High School. Thinking that he would instead go to school on foot and realizing after moments of walking that he had lost his way, Brennan knocked on the door of a nearby Rochester Hills home for help. Little did he expect that the owner of the home, Jeffrey Zeigler, would interpret his visit as a break-in attempt and shoot him with a shotgun.
Zeigler’s own home security camera captured the whole incident, showing the boy calmly approaching the house and knocking on the door. He then started running away as a man appeared with a gun.
It marked the second time an African-American teen was shot at in the Detroit area. In another case in 2014, a man named Theodore P. Wafer shot and killed 19-year-old Renisha Mcbride on his porch. The murderer was sentenced to 17 to 32 years in prison.
Back in April, Brennan told the NBC News that after he reached the house, he simply “knocked on the door, stepped back, knocked, stepped back.”
Before he knew it, a woman came downstairs, yelling at him: “Why are you trying to break into my house?”
Brennan tried to explain that he was a student at Rochester High and he only wanted directions to school. Yet his words barely registered in the woman’s ears. “She didn’t really give me a chance to speak a lot,” Brennan recounted.
The woman was Zeigler’s wife. She immediately called the police, saying that “a black male was trying to break into her house.”
Moments later, Zeigler, a retired Detroit firefighter, began to chase after Brennan with a gun and fired at the boy as the latter tried to escape.
Brennan’s mother Lisa Wright was abhorred by the incident. She could not comprehend why a child could not ask his neighbor for directions without fear of being killed.
“I shouldn’t be fearful of a child, let alone a skin tone,” she said. “This is a decent neighborhood. If anything, why would I knock on your door to rob you? Why would I have a conversation with you to rob you? It’s ridiculous. Ignorance is everywhere.”
She revealed that Brennan has been in therapy ever since in order to recover from the traumatic experience. “This will affect my son forever,” she said.
Wright also disclosed that she might decide to sue Zeigler after the conviction settled down. But right now she was more concerned about bringing the perpetrator to justice. “Let me see him go to jail,” she said. “Let my son and myself heal.”
Ziegler argued in his arraignment that there was “a lot more to this story than what is being told.”
For one, he claimed that he accidently fired his gun after he tripped. Yet the court easily discredited his defense. The security camera footage clearly showed that he purposefully aimed at Brannan as the boy run away.
His lawyer Rob Morad said on Saturday that his client was “remorseful” and “[wished] he didn’t go outside that day.”
Morad also claimed back in April that Zeigler was so alarmed by the perceived break-in that he simply did not consider Brannan’s race. “He just reacted and that was that,” Morad said.
While the jury “determined Mr. Zeigler did not intend to kill Brennan Walker”, Zeigler was convicted with assault with attempt to do great bodily harm and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
As of now, Zeigler was remanded in custody and the court would announce his sentence on November 13th.
Featured Image via Pixabay