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Hate crime? White Rochester Hills man shoots black teen after knocking on door asking directions

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Brennan Walker
Pictured, Jeffrey Ziegler shooting victim, Brennan Walker
Brennan Walker
Pictured, Jeffrey Ziegler shooting victim, Brennan Walker

Jeffrey Ziegler shooting: Black Michigan teen shot at after knocking on door asking for directions after getting lost. Was a Thursday morning shooting incident motivated by racism? 

Jeffrey Ziegler a 53 year old Rochester HillsMichigan man has been arrested after shooting at a black teen boy who’d knocked on his door asking for directions.

Appearing in court on Friday, the former 25 year veteran Detroit firefighter who’d served as lieutenant was arraigned on charges of assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to a release from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office

The victim, Rochester High School freshman Brennan Walker, 14, who is African-American, and his mother say they believe the shooting was racially motivated.

Bond was set at $50,000, with Zeigler ordered to wear a GPS tether upon release, to undergo alcohol testing and to stay at least 10 miles away from the victim and refrain from contacting him. 

Speaking to WXYZ-TV, Walker described having missed his bus Thursday and getting lost while walking the 4 miles from his home to school. At some point the teen knocked on the door of Zeigler’s home in Rochester Hills seeking ask directions. 

Walker said he was met by a woman yelling at him. She called her husband to the door, who arrived carrying a shotgun. The boy in turn ran away only to be chased and shot at.

‘She didn’t really give me a chance to speak a lot, and I was trying to tell her that I go to Rochester High and I was looking for directions,’ the teen told via the nytimes.

Adding, ‘A few moments later the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the shotgun’.

Oakland County sheriff’s deputies responded Thursday morning to a caller who reported that a black male was attempting to break into a house and that her husband chased him into the yard.

Police determined that the male homeowner chased Brennan into the yard and fired at him with a 12-gauge shotgun. They found 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 video captured by Zeigler’s home security system.

Jeffrey Ziegler chases fleeing black teen: prejudice, bias and belief that African Americans are purveyors of violence and crime.

Zeigler during Friday’s court appearance sought to address ‘inconsistencies’.

‘There’s a lot more to the story than what’s being told and I believe that will come out in court,’ explained Zeigler while addressing Judge Julie Nicholson. ‘I was in bed yesterday morning and my wife came screaming and crying. …’

Countered  the teen boy’s mother, Lisa WrightAfter watching the video and hearing the wife say ‘Why did these people choose my house?’ I knew it was racially motivated’.

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

Wright went on to note her husband and her son’s father was on service leave in Syria, trying to do the ‘right thing for his country’. 

To what degree Ziegler firing off his gun at Walker was based on bias, prejudice and the belief that African Americans are often the instigators of violent crime remained unknown.

Jeffrey Ziegler
Jeffrey Ziegler.

Jeffrey Ziegler former Detroit firefighter veteran: Shouldn’t he have known better or was he acting out on bias and own experience? 

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett issued a statement addressing the incident:

‘Over the last 24 hours, I’ve been working with the leadership of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and Rochester Community Schools and have been kept apprised of the terrible incident which occurred yesterday in one of our neighborhoods,’ Barnett said. 

He added that Rochester Hills has a ‘strong and unwavering policy when it comes to acts of hatred.’

Of note, Ziegler has a previous weapons conviction from 2005, with police in Warren, Michigan arresting Zeigler on accusations that he shot ‘at a car in a road rage incident on I-696,’ Fox 2 Detroit reported. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in that case, according to the television station.

Of particular intrigue is whether Ziegler’s impulse to shoot to kill was informed by his own bias towards African Americans or by the many years during service as a firefighter and rise to lieutenant. And how the ex firefighter’s attitude may also similarly reflect other senior officers’ bias and prejudice.

To date it remains unknown if Zeigler will also face hate crime charges.

If convicted, Zeigler faces life in prison.