In a case that attracted national attention and local outrage, a white Michigan homeowner was convicted Friday of shooting at a lost black teenager who showed up at his door seeking directions to his school, the Detroit News reports. Jeffrey Zeigler, 53, was found guilty by an Oakland County jury of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the April 12 incident involving Brennan Walker, 14. He had been charged with assault with intent to commit murder, but Judge Wendy Potts gave jurors the option of convicting Zeigler on the lesser charge.
Defense attorney Rob Morad said the prosecution did not prove an intent to murder or kill Walker. “You had a couple who have had several breaking and enterings and were fearful. His wife’s screams put things in motion, but he loves her and was trying to protect her. I expect he wished he had done a lot of things differently. I know he wished he had never gone outside his house that morning.” The incident prompted accusations that it was racially motivated. Prosecutor Kelly Collins told the jury evidence indicates Walker, then a high school freshman, escaped fatal injury only because Zeigler was unable to immediately fire his 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun because the safety was engaged. Morad told jurors his client was firing into the air, not to harm anyone, and trying to protect his wife. “If he wanted to kill him, he could have shot him on the porch,” Morad said.