A black 14-year-old boy who got lost in a Detroit suburban neighborhood while trying to get to school was shot at by a white homeowner after knocking on a door to ask directions, prosecutors said Friday, citing home security video and the account of the boy.
Jeffery Zeigler, a retired Detroit firefighter, was arraigned Friday on charges including assault with intent to murder.
Oakland County sheriff’s deputies were called to Zeigler’s Rochester Hills’ home about 8:20 a.m. Thursday after a woman told 911 that her husband had chased a black male who tried to break in. Deputies learned that a shot had been fired and found Brennan Walker — unharmed — down the street.
Walker’s statement to police differed from that given by Zeigler, according to assistant prosecutor Kelly Collins.
“We do have the benefit of home security video,” Collins told the court Friday. He said Zeigler’s account was not borne out by the video.
“The victim in this matter, a 14-year-old child, indicated what had happened to the police and his version did bear out on that video,” he said.
The video was taken from Zeigler’s home security system.
Zeigler, 53, attempted to give an account of the events Friday at his court appearance which was via video from the county jail.
“There’s a lot more to the story than what’s being told and I believe that will come out in court,” he told Judge Julie Nicholson. “I was in bed yesterday morning and my wife came screaming and crying …”
It was there that Nicholson stopped Zeigler, whose attorney was not in court for the arraignment.
Walker has said he woke up late Thursday, missed his school bus and became lost in the Christian Hills subdivision while trying to walk the bus route to Rochester High School.
When he knocked on the door to Zeigler’s home, Walker said a woman inside began yelling “‘why are you trying to break into my house?'” he told WJBK-TV. “I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High and she kept yelling at me. Then the guy came downstairs and he grabbed the gun. I saw it and started to run. And that’s when I heard the gunshot.”
Walker’s mother, Lisa Wright, said it was clear to her what was behind the shooting after investigators showed her the security video.
“After watching the video and hearing the wife say ‘why did these people choose my house?’ I knew it was racially-motivated,” Wright told WXYZ-TV. “I don’t know what other ‘these people’ she could possibly have been talking about. He was by himself.”
Wright said people in the neighborhood shouldn’t be afraid of a child, “let alone a skin tone.”
“We should not have to live in a society where we have to fend for ourselves,” she added. “If I have a question, I should be able to turn to my village and knock on a door and ask a question.”
Zeigler’s bond was set at $50,000. He was ordered to have no contact with Walker or the teen’s family, to wear a GPS tether and to turn over any weapons to the sheriff’s office.
He also was told that he couldn’t return to his house and had to stay at least 10 miles from Walker’s Rochester Hills’ home.
“I’d really like to stay in my home and keep my family together,” Zeigler told the judge. “I promise to have no contact with the gentleman.”
Nicholson set an April 24 probable cause conference and May 1 preliminary exam.
A Dearborn Heights man is serving at least 17 years in prison after being convicted of murder in the 2013 fatal shooting of a black woman who pounded on his door after crashing her car. Police have said that Renisha McBride, 19, was drunk when Ted Wafer shot her through the screen door of his home, just west of Detroit.
Wafer, who is white, has said he believed his home was being broken into.