Two of our nation’s biggest problems, guns and racism, were on display in a recent incident in Rochester Hills. Michigan this week, according to a report from WJBK, the Fox affiliate in Detroit.
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It all began when 14-year-old Brennan Walker woke up late for school and missed his bus. He decided to walk to his classes at Rochester High School and followed the route the bus would usually take. Unfortunately, since his mother had taken away his phone, he was without GPS assistance and wound up getting lost along the way.
He decided to knock on a stranger’s door in the neighborhood in which he found himself to ask for directions. Walker describes what happens next.
“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.
At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning that Brennan Walker is a young African-American teen and the people whose house he stopped to ask directions from are white.
The man with the shotgun, identified as Jeffery Zeigler, a 53-year-old retired firefighter, luckily missed hitting Walker with the single shot he took as he ran away. Meanwhile, his wife had called the police who encountered the distraught teen a few blocks away.
Unlike the Zeiglers, the deputies listened to Walker’s story of being lost and merely trying to get directions. They went to the Zeiglers’ home and, after reviewing security footage, charged Mr. Zeigler with intent to murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
“It’s disgusting, it’s disturbing and it’s unacceptable on every level,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County said.
Sheriff Bouchard said that the security footage revealed that the shooter was “not terribly weapons-competent,” adding, “He was slower to discharge the weapon and as a result, allowed this young man, thankfully, to get farther away.”
With a plethora of shootings of unarmed black men like the recent murder of Stephon Clark who was shot by police in his own backyard while holding a cellphone the officers thought was a gun, Walker was incredibly lucky that he didn’t join the shameful list of statistics this week.
His experience is nearly identical, except for the outcome, to the story of Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old girl who was shot and killed when she banged on the door of a house in nearby Dearborn Heights, Michigan seeking assistance after an auto accident.
Walker’s mother, Lisa Wright, was shown the security video of the incident by police and had this to say:
“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].”
“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?”
Zeigler is now being held at Oakland County Jail and has been given a bail of $50,000. Sheriff Michael Bouchard said that they plan on throwing the book at the shooter.
“It is just absurd that this happened. 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.”
While Zeigler’s shotgun was legal, one has to ask why America can’t get over its fixation with weapons as the solution to every perceived threat, no matter how illogical or mistaken that perception may be.
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