ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. – A Rochester Hills man shown on video firing a gun at a teenager who was lost and looking for directions was sentenced to 4-10 years in prison on Tuesday.
Jeffrey Zeigler was charged with assault with intent to murder and felony firearms violations. In October, a jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony.
The 14-year-old boy said he got lost while walking to school April 12 and was looking for directions. He knocked on the door to a home in the 2200 block of South Christian Hills Drive. The homeowner told police he came out with a shotgun because he believed his home was being broken into.
Surveillance video from the home shows him firing the shotgun at the teen as the teen was running away from the home.
Statements made in court
The teen's mother, Lisa Wright, spoke in court ahead of Zeigler's sentencing. She said she didn't want to bring race into the conversation, but she couldn't help feeling Zeigler fired the gun at her son because he is black.
"I don't feel like he's remorseful. I don't feel like he's shown remorse. I feel like it's only because of the media that he feels as though he has to say he's sorry. His wife hasn't shown any remorse. I feel like myself and my son are the only ones that are really sorry in this whole thing, and we haven't done anything ...," Wright said. "I try to keep race out of it, but we all know that's pretty much what it was. It's not fair for people to dislike us about something that we can't control. If there was a button I could press for me to pick what color I could be just so I wouldn't have to deal with this type of stuff, I would have to be your color so I could survive. That's not fair."
Zeigler did offer an apology before Judge Wendy Potts handed down his sentencing.
"I'd like to apologize to the family for my actions on that morning," said Zeigler. "I know it was wrong, and after spending 35 days in jail you do a lot of soul-searching. I do apologize for my actions. I have full remorse and regret, and I wish I could change something but I can't go back in time."
Potts said she took into consideration Zeigler's past. He did face a misdemeanor charge for unlawful discharged of a firearm in 2004. A jury found him guilty of a lesser charge. Zeigler spent more 20 years as a Detroit firefighter and was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010.
"Shooting at a teenager leaving your premises has consequences," said Potts. "Firemen are held in very high esteem for the services they perform ... your actions weren't in uniformity with the actions of those brave firefighters."
Watch the sentencing here:
What happened that day in April
Deputies responded to the home about 8:20 a.m. that morning after the man's wife said someone was trying to break into her home.
"The caller reported that a black male was trying to break into her house and her husband chased after him into the yard. Upon deputies' arrival, it was determined that the husband chased after the male with a 12 gauge shotgun and fired a round toward the fleeing male. No injuries were reported," reads a statement from the Sheriff's Office.
Video of shooting shown in court
Authorities said home security video showed the man shooting at the unarmed teen, who was running away from the home. That video was played in court this week where the homeowner, 53-year-old Jeffrey Zeigler, is charged with assault with intent to murder and felony firearms violations.
The video shows the teen running for his life as Zeigler aims and fires a shotgun at him.
"She (Zeigler's wife) thought I was trying to break in. She asked 'Why are you trying to break into my house?'" Brennan Walker, the teen Zeigler shot at, said.
Watch the video here:
Prosecutors said when the wife yelled, her husband came running with the gun.
"There's a lot more to the story than what's being told," Zeigler said.
The teen's mother said she believes Zeigler reacted with such violence because he saw a black teenager at his front door.
Zeigler was out on bond since the April incident until he was convicted.
Teen says he got lost on walk to school, describes encounter
The 14-year-old boy, Brennan Walker, said he woke up late that Thursday morning and missed the school bus. He decided to walk to Rochester High School instead. However, he started to lose his way and needed help.
Brennan knocked on the door to the house on South Christian Hills Drive to ask for directions.
"I knocked on the door, stepped back, knocked, stepped back, and then a lady came downstairs yelling at me," he said. "She asked me, 'Why are you trying to break into my house?' and I told her I was just looking for directions to Rochester High," he said.
Then a man came downstairs armed with a gun and Brennan started running.
"I turned back and I saw him aiming at me," said Brennan.
Police said the man had the safety on the gun at first, but then he took aim a second time.
"I was running away ... I was trying to run away faster and I heard a gunshot," said Brennan.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard believes there is no way to justify what happened.
"That's just completely unacceptable on every level. I don't know how you would justify it, but it certainly doesn't pass the muster," said Bouchard.
Brennan's mother, Lisa Wright, wanted the man to face serious charges.
"I want to see this pushed to the fullest extent. It definitely was a hate crime," she said.