PONTIAC, Mich. (WJBK) - A man has been found guilty of Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm after firing a gun at a black teenager who knocked on his door looking for directions.
The trial for Jeffrey Zeigler, 52, began on Monday, and the jury heard from several witnesses -- including Zeigler himself, his wife and the teen involved -- before coming to their verdict Friday afternoon. The jury found Zeigler guilty on the lesser assault charge than what the prosecution was aiming for. They had hoped to convict Zeigler of Assault with Intent to Murder. The jury also found Zeigler guilty on a weapons charge.
Back on April 12, 14-year-old Brennan Walker missed the school bus and got lost trying to cut through a subdivision to get to school. He found a random house to ask for help, but was met at the front door with a woman accusing him of trying to break in.
That woman was Zeigler's wife, Dana. She testified on Thursday that she panicked when she saw "a black person standing at [her] door" and so she woke her husband up from a deep sleep. She testified she thought the person was trying to break in. The couple had dealt with a number of other breakins over the years.
"He didn't look like a child. He was a rather big man standing there, and also, if he was going to school, we have no schools in our area," she said.
Jeffrey came downstairs that morning to see what was going on, and saw his wife frantic and yelling and calling 911. Surveillance video from the front porch shows Walker running away from the house, and Jeffrey coming outside moments later with his gun, pointing it in the direction of the teen and firing.
Jeffrey testified Thursday he meant to give a warning shot up into the air, but that his foot slipped on the pavement. The prosecutor contended Jeffrey pointed the weapon at Walker, and fired with the intent to kill.
"I wanted to fire more up in the air, more towards my shoulder, and I didn't get the chance to because like I said, it was slippery, and I didn't have a good grip on the gun," he said.
Jeffrey also claimed he had no idea the person on his porch was a teenage boy until he saw the surveillance video.
"I felt extremely remorseful. I was -- I was just shocked," he said.
He said he "absolutely" understood he did something wrong, and when asked if he would've done things differently: "I would have given him a ride to school."
Jeffrey is due in court again on November 13 for sentencing.
This situation is an eerie reminder of one that ended tragically in Dearborn Heights, Mich. back in 2013 and got national headlines, when a white man shot and killed a young black woman in the middle of the night after she knocked on his door.
It's not completely known why 19-year-old Renisha McBride knocked on Ted Wafer's door that night, though she had crashed her car a few blocks away. She had been drinking and was disoriented when she went up to his house, but she was not armed.
Wafer testified he grabbed his shotgun opened the door and fired his weapon at McBride because he feared she was an intruder and that he killed her in self-defense, but the jury did not agree.
He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to at least 17 years in prison. Last year, he tried to get an appeal based on jury instructions but the Michigan Supreme Court denied that appeal in March.
Back in April, when we first talked to Walker after he was shot at by Zeigler, the teen said he's just glad he didn't become another name in a hashtag.
"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," he said in retrospect.