Rochester Hills man accused of firing shotgun at teen asking for directions appears in court

Jeffrey Zeigler charged with assault with intent to murder

By John Steckroth - Editor, Dave Bartkowiak Jr., Priya Mann - Reporter

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. - A Rochester Hills man was in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing in connection with accusations that he chased a 14-year-old boy away from his porch and fired a shotgun at him after the teen knocked on his door to ask for directions to school.

Jeffrey Zeigler, 53, is charged with assault with intent to murder and felony firearms violations.

Zeigler waived the preliminary exam Tuesday morning. 

Deputies responded about 8:20 a.m. April 12 to a home in the 2200 block of South Christian Hills Drive after a caller said someone was trying to break into her home. 

ORIGINAL REPORT: Rochester Hills homeowner shoots at 14-year-old knocking on door for directions after missing bus

Brennan Walker, 14, of Rochester Hills

"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. 

Authorities are reviewing home security cameras as they investigate the shooting.

Court records show Zeigler was charged with felonious assault with a dangerous weapon, aiming without malice and felony firearms in 2006. He was found guilty of three counts of aiming without malice and sentenced to one year of probation.

Jeffrey Zeigler (WDIV)

“There’s a lot more to this story than what is being told and I believe that will all come out in court,” Zeigler said at the arraignment. “I was in bed yesterday morning when my wife started screaming and crying…”

The judge interrupted Zeigler so he wouldn't inadvertently incriminate himself. 

Zeigler is a retired Detroit firefighter. He was given a $50,000 bond, no 10 percent, and will have to wear a GPS tether upon release. 

Teen says he got lost on walk to school

Brennan Walker, 14, said he woke up late 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. 

A Rochester Hills man fired a gun at a teen who knocked on his door to asked for directions April 12, 2018, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. (WDIV)

Brennan knocked on the door to a 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, wants the man to face serious charges. 

"I want to see this pushed to the fullest extent. It definitely was a hate crime," she said. 

Watch an interview with Brennan and his mother here: 

Teen didn't have cellphone

Brennan did not have a cellphone at the time because he was on punishment. His mother took the phone. His mother works the overnight shift and doesn't get off until 8 a.m. So Brennan is responsible for getting on the bus each morning. 

He actually went to two houses to ask for directions. He was trying to find a short cut to get to school and went through nearby neighborhoods after getting lost. He went to one house first and was given directions by a homeowner, but got lost again. It was the second house he went to where the man met him with the gun. 

Mayor sickened by initial reports

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan K. Barnett released the following statement Friday afternoon:

"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. While the City cannot officially comment on matters under investigation, I am personally sickened by the initial reports and they suggest behavior completely unacceptable and inconsistent with the character and values of our community. Our city has a strong and unwavering policy when it comes to acts of hatred. The key excerpt of that policy is referenced below and I’ve asked for it to be placed prominently on the City website as well. We stand by this position wholeheartedly and look forward to justice in this case."  

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