Mich. seeks pension, assets of man who shot at teen

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

Pontiac — The state of Michigan is going after the pension and assets of a Rochester Hills man who's in prison for firing a shotgun blast at a lost teenager who stopped at his house seeking directions.

Jeffrey C. Zeigler was sentenced to 4-10 years in prison last year after an Oakland County Circuit Court jury convicted him of felonious assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The 14-year-old victim, Brennan Walker, was walking through the subdivision April 12, 2018, after missing his school bus, and stopped at Zeigler’s house to ask directions to school. Walker, who is black, turned and ran from the front porch when he saw Zeigler, who is white, advance with the shotgun. The teen was not wounded in the incident.

The state treasurer’s filing says 90 percent of Zeigler’s assets should be forfeited to the state of Michigan, which “has expended and will continue to expend a sum of money for the costs of Prisoner Zeigler’s care during the entire period he is confined in a state corrections facility.” The specific costs were not detailed.

The treasurer wants Oakland Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot to freeze a $3,968.64 monthly pension Zeigler receives from the city of Detroit, where he retired as a firefighter. According to the filing, Zeigler’s wife, Dana, has access to $17,701 in a checking account and $269.20 in a savings account, which should also be considered assets.

Zeigler, who turned 54 last month in prison, was initially charged with assault with intent to murder, which can carry any term of years up to life. While the jury convicted him of a lesser offense carrying a lighter penalty, he will not be eligible for parole until October 2022 at the earliest and at a maximum, might not receive parole consideration until October 2030.

The state is requesting a show cause hearing under the State Correctional Facility Reimbursement Act, which states that when such a complaint is filed, a prisoner must show why 90 percent of his assets should not be appropriated and applied toward the cost of care.

Two weeks before such hearings, a prisoner is ordered to provide a full and complete accounting of all assets, including financial accounts, balances, account numbers, addresses and any real estate holdings.

While prisoners rarely have assets to reimburse the state, those that do will “generally move assets beyond (the state’s) reach upon notice of suit,” so a freeze is needed, the filing said.

“We normally inform the Attorney General’s Office of prisoners who are believed capable of making reimbursement because they have pensions, stocks, 401(k)s, or other forms of income,” said Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. “The number is quite low and I don’t think this comes up that often.”

Gautz said the Michigan prison system has 38,000 inmates and the average cost of care is $95 a day, or $34,675 a year.

Zeigler insisted there was nothing racial in his actions but he provided conflicting versions of what occurred on the morning of the shooting. In one, he said he awoke to his wife screaming that someone was trying to break into their home.

Zeigler said he ran outside with the shotgun, slipped and the weapon accidentally discharged. When a home surveillance camera showed he was in control of the shotgun and had to release its safety mechanism when he first tried to fire at the fleeing teen, Zeigler explained the blast was meant to be a “warning shot.”

In an interview with police after the shooting, Zeigler said his home and garage had been broken into in the past and he was “tired of being a victim.”


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