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Very Real

Neighbor Charged For Shooting At Black Teen Who Asked For Directions To School

14-year-old Brennan Walker missed his school bus, so he went to ask his neighbor for directions — and was met with gunfire.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Brennan Walker, a 14-year-old freshman at Rochester High School in Rochester Hills, Michigan, decided to walk to school after missing the bus on Thursday. But he didn’t have a phone, so he knocked on a neighbor’s door to ask for directions. But his neighbor answered with lethal force.

“I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady's door. Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High. And she kept yelling at me,” said Walker to Fox News Detroit. “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.”

The neighbor, later identified as retired firefighter Jeffrey Zeigler, shot at Walker, but missed.

“I looked back behind me I saw him aiming at me and I turned back,” Walker told WXYZ. “I turned back and I heard the gunshot. And I tried to run faster.”

Walker continued running, and hid. According to The Associated Press, the woman who opened the door called 911 and reported that her husband had chased a black man who had tried to break into her home. When authorities arrived, they found Walker down the street, and after watching footage of the incident captured by a home security camera, took Zeigler into custody.

Zeigler, who has since been charged with assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, was arraigned on Friday, USA Today reports. His bond was set at $50,000, with the condition that he have no contact with Walker or Walker’s family, and to stay at least 10 miles from Walker’s home. Zeigler was also ordered to wear a GPS tether, undergo alcohol testing, and to turn over any weapons he may have to the sheriff’s office. He is due in court again on April 24, Fox News Detroit reports.

Walker’s mother, Lisa Wright, said that it was clear to her after watching the security video that the attempted shooting was racially motivated.

“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. “I don’t know what other ‘these people’ she could possibly have been talking about. He was by himself.”

“My mom says that, black boys get shot because sometimes they don't look their age, and I don't look my age. I'm 14; but I don't look 14. I'm kind of happy that, like, I didn't become a statistic,” Walker told Fox News Detroit.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard commented, “It is just absurd that this happened. I feel terrible for the young man. I feel terrible for the mom and the anxiety that they had to go through. We are going to ask for every charge permissible for this guy, who stepped up and fired a shotgun because someone knocked on his door.”

During his court appearance on Friday, which was via video from the county jail, Zeigler began trying to tell Judge Julie Nicholson his account of the incident, commenting, “There’s a lot more to the story than what’s being told and I believe that will come out in court. I was in bed yesterday morning and my wife came screaming and crying...”

The judge reportedly then stopped Zeigler, whose attorney was not in court for the arraignment, from continuing.

(Photo: Oakland County Sheriff's Office)