A retired Michigan firefighter found guilty of firing a shotgun at a Black teen who knocked on his door to ask directions was sentenced Tuesday to four to 10 years behind bars.
Jeffrey Ziegler, 53, apologized as he stood before a judge in an Oakland County courtroom this week, where he was slapped with a two to 10 years sentence for one count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, and two years for one felony count, according to NBC News. The sentences will be consecutive, meaning Ziegler must serve at least two years for each count.
“I have full remorse and regret and I wish I could change something, but we can’t go back in time,” he said.
Home surveillance footage released last month showed Ziegler, a former Detroit firefighter, raising his gun and firing at 14-year-old Brennan Walker on the morning of April 12. Walker told investigators he missed the bus and got lost on his walk to school. So, he approached Ziegler’s doorstep in hopes he’d point him in the right direction.
That wasn’t the case.
“I knocked on the door, stepped back, knocked, stepped back again, and then a lady came downstairs yelling at me …” the teen told NBC-affiliate WDIV earlier this year. Walker said Ziegler’s wife then picked up the phone and dialed police to say “a Black male was trying to break into” her Rochester Hills home.
Moments later, the teen said Zeigler came sprinting down the stairs with his shotgun in tow. As the high school freshman fled to safety, Zeigler fired off a round, as seen in the surveillance video.
Walker managed to escape unharmed.
“My mom says that Black boys get shot because sometimes they don’t look their age, and I don’t look my age. I’m 14; but I don’t look 14,” he told Fox 2 Detroit earlier this year. “I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic.”
A jury convicted Ziegler of a gun crime and assault on Oct. 12. During his trial, Ziegler insisted he was innocent and argued he accidentally slipped while chasing after Walker, causing his gun to discharge.
“I wanted to fire more up in the air, more towards my shoulder, and I didn’t get the chance to because like I said, it was slippery. I didn’t have a good grip on the gun,” he testified. “I felt extremely remorseful. And I was — I was just shocked.”
However, Investigators said the surveillance footage proved otherwise because it showed Ziegler aiming straight for the young teen as he fled.
Walker’s mother, Lisa Wright, told the judge Tuesday she doesn’t think Ziegler is remorseful for what he did and argued his decision to try and harm her son was racially motivated.
“I don’t feel like he’s shown remorse. I feel like it’s only because of the media that he feels as though he has to say he’s sorry,” said Wright. “His wife hasn’t shown any remorse. I feel like myself and my son are the one ones who are really sorry … and we haven’t done anything. I tried to keep race out of it, but we also know that’s pretty much what it was.”
“It’s not fair for people to dislike us about something we can’t control,” she added.
Wright said the incident has deeply affected her son and that he’ll be in therapy indefinitely.