The 14-year-old was walking to high school after sleeping late and missing the bus when he decided to ask a neighbor for directions.
It was a banal request, but it nearly got the student from Rochester Hills, Mich., killed Thursday.
The woman who opened the door after Brennan Walker, who is black, knocked on it started yelling at him. Then the woman’s husband grabbed a shotgun and fired it at him, Walker and police officials said.
Walker told WJBK TV that “she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High. And she kept yelling at me. Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun, I saw it and started to run. And that’s when I heard the gunshot.”
After sprinting away from the house, Brennan, who was not hit, hid and broke down in tears, the outlet reported.
“I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic,” Brennan told the outlet, saying his mother had told him that black boys were at risk of being shot by others.
Jeffrey Zeigler, a retired firefighter who is white, was charged with assault with intent to murder and a felony firearm charge, local news outlets reported, and his bond was set at $50,000. He faces as much as life in prison, according to a video of his arraignment.
“There’s a lot more to the story than what’s being told, and I believe that will all come out in court,” Zeigler said at the arraignment. “I was in bed yesterday morning when my wife started screaming and crying … ”
The judge interrupted Zeigler to prevent him from finishing.
The man’s wife appeared to have called 911 around 8:20 a.m. saying that her husband had chased a black male who had tried to break in, according to the Associated Press.
“It is just absurd that this happened,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told WJBK. “I feel terrible for the young man; I feel terrible for the mom and the anxiety that they had to go through. We are going to ask for every charge permissible for this guy who stepped up and fired a shotgun because someone knocked on his door.”
Brennan’s mother, Lisa Wright, told the outlet that she had heard that the man missed only because he forgot to take the gun’s safety off.
She said police showed her surveillance video of the episode taken from a camera installed at the home where the incident happened.
“One of the things that stands out, that probably angers me the most is, while I was watching the tape, you can hear the wife say, ‘Why did these people choose my house?’ ” Wright said. “Who are ‘these people?’ 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.”
Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said in a statement that he was “personally sickened by the initial reports and they suggest behavior completely unacceptable and inconsistent with the character and values of our community.”
The situation is similar to another that took place in Michigan, in Dearborn Heights, where a white man shot a 19-year-old black woman after she knocked on his door after crashing her car nearby. That man, Theodore Wafer, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to a minimum of 17 years in prison in 2014.
“We should not have to live in a society where we have to fend for ourselves,” Wright said. “If I have a question, I should be able to turn to my village and knock on a door and ask a question. I shouldn’t be fearful of a child, let alone a skin tone.”