PONTIAC, Mich. (WJBK) - A white retired firefighter has been sentenced to 4-10 years in jail after firing a gun at a black teenager who knocked on his door looking for directions last spring.
Last month, a jury found 53-year-old Jeffrey Zeigler guilty on the lesser assault charge than what the prosecution was aiming for, assault with intent to do great bodily harm. They had hoped to convict Zeigler of assault with intent to murder. The jury also found Zeigler guilty on a weapons charge.
The judge ruled Zeigler spend 2-10 years in prison on the assault charge, and 2 years for the weapons charge, to be served consecutively, not concurrently. He also gets credit on the weapons charge for 35 days time served.
The case involved 14-year-old Brennan Walker, a black student who told police he missed the school bus on April 12 and knocked on Zeigler's door in Rochester Hills after getting lost while walking. The teen says he ran after seeing a man inside the house grab a gun.
Zeigler said he woke up to his wife's screams and that she believed someone was trying to break into their home.
Zeigler's wife, Dana, testified 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.
Home security video showed Zeigler firing a shotgun toward Brennan, who was not struck. Zeigler claimed he had no idea the person on his porch was a teenage boy until he saw the surveillance video.
"I tried to keep race out of it but we pretty much all know that's what it was," said the teen's mother the day of Zeigler's sentencing. "If there was a button that 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," she said, motioning towards Zeigler.
Zeigler apologized before learning his sentence, saying he had done a lot of soul searching in the 35 days he's spent so far in jail. He said he was full of regret and remorse, and that he wishes he could change what happened.