Black teen misses bus, gets shot at after asking for directions in Rochester Hills
ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (WJBK) - A 14-year-old missed his bus and it nearly cost him his life.
Things took a dangerous turn when Brennan Walker went looking for help at a Rochester Hills home Thursday morning and was confronted by a man with a gun.
Walker was trying to walk the bus route to Rochester High School after he woke up late and missed his bus. His mom had taken his phone away, so he didn't have that with him to get directions. So he knocked on a stranger’s door for help -- and almost paid for it with his life.
"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. 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," he says.
Thankfully, the man missed. Brennan kept running, hid, then cried.
"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 says in retrospect.
Oakland County Sheriff Deputies arrived soon after to the home on South Christian Hills Drive and took the woman's husband into custody.
FOX 2: "Your son almost became a hashtag."
"Exactly, and that's exactly how I feel. Like, wow. Because you were trying to get to school," says his mother, Lisa Wright. "I found out later the only reason [the man] missed is because he forgot to take the safety off."
Lisa was at work when she got the call. She says her husband is deployed in Syria, so she was assuming she was getting a call about him until she realized they were calling about Brennan. She dropped everything and immediately went to the substation to be with her son.
That's where investigators told her the family's Ring doorbell recorded the encounter. Investigators watched the video with Brennan and his mom. She says the video confirmed their suspicions.
"One of the things that stands out, that probably angers me the most is, while I was watching the tape, you can hear the wife say, 'Why did "these people" choose my house?'" she says, before taking a long pause. "Who are, "these people?" And that set me off. I didn't want to believe it was what it appeared to look like. When I heard her say that, it was like, but it is [what it looks like]."
Authorities haven't released that security video.
"We should not have to live in a society where we have to fend for ourselves. If I have a question, I should be able to turn to my village and knock on a door and ask a question. I shouldn't be fearful of a child, let alone a skin tone," she adds. "This is a decent neighborhood. If anything -- why would I knock on your door to rob you?"
"It is just absurd that this happened," says Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. "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."
Right now that man is being held at the Oakland County Jail.
The retired Detroit firefighter was arraigned Friday afternoon. Jeffrey Zeigler has been charged with Assault with Intent to Murder; and Felony Firearms. He received a bond of $50,000, with conditions, and is due in court again April 24.
This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 2 for updates.
This situation is an eerie reminder of one that ended tragically in Dearborn Heights, Mich. back in 2013 and got national headlines, when a homeowner shot and killed a young 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.