Man gets 4-10 years for shooting at black teen

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts sentences Jeffrey Zeigler, of Rochester Hills, to four to 10 years in prison for felony firearms and assault with the intent to commit great bodily harm, less than murder.

Pontiac — A white retired Detroit firefighter was sentenced Tuesday to four to 10 years in prison for shooting at a black teenager who came to his Rochester Hills home asking for directions. 

Jeffrey Zeigler appeared in Oakland County Circuit Court, where he was given 2 to 10 years for assault with intent to murder and 2 years for felony firearm. The sentences will be served consecutively.

Before sentencing, Zeigler told Judge Wendy Potts he was remorseful and regretful for his actions and apologized to Brennan Walker and his family. As he was escorted out of the courtroom, Zeigler smiled and waved at his wife, who sat a few rows away, as several friends and relatives shouted, "We love you Jeff."

Zeigler was initially charged with assault with intent to murder, a felony that can carry up to life in prison. A jury viewed a home security video of Walker fleeing the house as Zeigler aimed and fired a shotgun. The teen was not wounded.

The jury convicted Zeigler last month of the lesser assault offense and the gun crime. He could be paroled after four years.

"He will be doing a minimum of four years (in prison)," Zeigler's attorney Robert Morad said outside the courtroom. "We will be discussing a possible appeal."

Brennan, 14, told police he missed a school bus on April 12 and knocked on Zeigler’s door after getting lost while walking. The teen says he ran after seeing a man inside the house grab a gun.

Zeigler, 53, has said he woke up to his wife’s screams and that she believed someone was trying to break into their home.

Brennan Walker's step father, Steven Wright, left, and his mother, Lisa Wright, center, give their victim's impact statement as they stand with assistant prosecutor Kelly Collins, right.

Assistant prosecutor Kelley Collins, Judge Potts and the victim's mother, Lisa Wright, all noted that this was not the first time Zeigler has fired a weapon at someone. In 2004, he took a plea bargain of reckless discharge of a weapon in a road rage case in Macomb County.

Morad said his client suffers numerous physical injuries from 23 years as a decorated Detroit firefighter and also has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Brennan did not attend the sentencing and has reportedly been traumatized by the incident and is seeing a therapist. Outside court, Wright said the family doesn't leave their house much these days and she even shops at 4 a.m.

"He stopped at a house with a Neighborhood Watch sign on it," said Wright, when reporters asked what she has told her son. "He didn't do anything wrong. What do I tell him? 

"We moved to Rochester Hills to live in a better place, a safe place," Wright said. "But when a safer place doesn't want you there, I don't know how to process that."

James David Dickson and the Associated Press contributed.

Jeffrey Zeigler briefly looks at family members and friends after his sentencing, saying, "I love you, too," as he leaves the courtroom.