The man who shot at a teenager who’d knocked on his door for directions is found guilty

Brennan Walker didn’t make the morning bus to school. He didn’t have his phone. And he wasn’t sure how to get to his high school.
Brennan needed help finding his way, and the home of Jeffrey Zeigler appeared to be just as good as any to seek neighborly guidance.
Zeigler answered with a shotgun blast.

Jurors on Tuesday watched video of the incident during Zeigler’s trial, which showed how close Brennan, then 14, may have come to a violent death on April 12 in Rochester Hills, Mich. On Friday, that jury found Zieger guilty of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, according to the Detroit Metro Times. Ziegler is due back in court Nov. 13 for sentencing, and could face up to 12 years of prison time.

Zeigler, a retired firefighter, had been charged with assault with intent to murder, which could have led to life in prison, Oakland County District Attorney Jessica R. Cooper told The Washington Post on Thursday.

A camera that appears to be on Zeigler’s porch captured the teenager, who is black, approaching the house wearing a backpack. Brennan testified Monday that Zeigler’s wife answered the door and immediately accused him of trying to break into the home, the Oakland Press News reported.

“I was scared. I was trying to tell them that I was trying to get to high school, but they weren’t listening,” Brennan testified.

Zeigler’s wife yelled, and Zeigler sprang out of bed, armed himself with a shotgun and ran out to the porch. Brennan, upon seeing the commotion, turned and ran from the house, the video shows.

Brennan was nearly out of the yard when Zeigler appeared, shirtless. He shouldered his shotgun and leveled the barrel in the teenager’s direction.

He fired a single shot, the video shows. Brennan was not injured.

Cooper declined further comment, citing the trial this week.

Zeigler’s attorney, Rob Morad, has said that race was not a factor in the shooting (Zeigler is white), and that his client and his wife were on “high alert” after five previous break-ins at their home. Zeigler “acted from passion instead of judgment,” Morad told jurors. He did not return a request for comment Thursday.

Zeigler has also claimed that he accidentally fired the shotgun after slipping. The video shows Zeigler pausing for a few beats before firing the gun. Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Marshall testified he could not say definitively where Zeigler was aiming after reviewing the video, the Press News reported.

Shawn Pace, a detective with the sheriff’s office, testified Tuesday that he had been investigating the claims of a break-in and then watched the video. “I was shocked,” Pace said, according to the Press News. He watched it again, then became “charged up, because I was offended by what I had seen.”

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said soon after the incident: “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.”

Brennan’s mother, Lisa Wright, said in April that she believed the reaction in the Zeigler household was racially motivated. She watched the video soon after the incident. “You can hear the wife say, ‘Why did these people choose my house?’ Who are ‘these people?’ ” Wright said. “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.”

Zeigler maintained that he believed Brennan was a threat. But Pace showed him the video and asked him to point out where the teenager had shown bad intentions.

Zeigler “took a big drink of water, he looked at me, and he said, ‘I’m tired of being a victim,’ ” Pace testified.

Chicago policeman defends shooting of black teen at trial

The white Chicago police officer who shot to death a black teenager in 2014 told jurors at his murder trial on Tuesday that he felt threatened when he opened fire, as he took the witness stand in his own defense.

Jason Van Dyke, 40, is accused of shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times and faces charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct in a case that has focused attention on race relations and policing in the third-largest U.S. city.

He is the first Chicago police officer to face a murder charge for an on-duty incident in decades. His decision to testify was not revealed until he took the stand.

Wiping tears away at times, Van Dyke testified that McDonald “never stopped” advancing toward him, getting about 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) away.

“His face had no expression,” Van Dyke said under questioning from his lawyer. “His eyes were buggin’ out.”

McDonald waved his knife and was still holding the knife when he fell to the ground, Van Dyke testified, adding that he shot at the knife. Van Dyke said he did not know how many shots he fired at the time and stopped shooting when McDonald fell and when his gun was empty.

“I’m yelling at him, ‘Drop that knife,’” Van Dyke said. “I just wanted him to get rid of that knife.”

Prosecutors have said Van Dyke was not justified in shooting McDonald. Jurors have repeatedly viewed a video of the incident, which prosecutors have argued shows that McDonald was not moving toward Van Dyke at the time he began firing.

The public release of the dashboard camera video, which came after a journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, sparked days of protests in Chicago.

Under cross-examination by a prosecutor, Van Dyke said that video and an animated video of the shooting played for the jury do not show what occurred from his point of view.

“It’s not my perspective,” Van Dyke said.

The prosecution grilled Van Dyke on his actions in the moments before the shooting, and noted that the officer continued to shoot after McDonald fell to the ground.

“I shot at that knife,” Van Dyke said. “My focus was just on that knife and I just wanted him to get rid of that knife. That’s all I could think.”

“Cause to me it seemed like he was getting back up and he was in the fight,” Van Dyke said later.

Van Dyke’s lawyers have portrayed McDonald as an unruly, threatening criminal who was under the influence of a drug.

Van Dyke also told jurors he had drawn his gun several times in his career, but had never fired it in the line of duty before the Oct. 20, 2014 incident. “I’m very proud of that,” he said.

The trial, now in its third week, will continue on Wednesday. The 12-person jury includes one black member.