Wife re­counts gun­fire in­ci­dent with teen

Hus­band charged with as­sault for fir­ing at teen who knocked

The Detroit News - - Metro - BY MIKE MARTIN­DALE The Detroit News

Pon­tiac — The wife of a Rochester Hills man charged with try­ing to shoot and kill a lost teenager who knocked on their door tear­fully re­counted that trau­matic morn­ing dur­ing her hus­band’s trial Thurs­day in Oak­land County Cir­cuit Court.

Dana Zei­gler said she had just fin­ished a shower and was pre­par­ing to get dressed for work April 12 when she heard her door­bell. Dana Zei­gler said she looked out the win­dow and saw no ve­hi­cles — out­side of their own — parked out­side and knew of no one who would be stop­ping by shortly af­ter 8 a.m.

When she saw a strange teenager wear­ing a skull cap and back­pack at her door, she screamed at him, “What are you do­ing on my porch?”

She tes­ti­fied that he re­sponded, “I am on my way to school” as he opened the storm door and she be­lieves, at­tempted to open the in­ner wooden door.

She screamed for her

hus­band, Jef­frey Zei­gler, who she said was in a “dead sleep” from med­i­ca­tion he took the night be­fore. Zei­gler told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he takes pain killers, mus­cle re­lax­ers and Valium for in­juries he has suf­fered to his hips, back and arms.

Zei­gler rushed down the stairs and see­ing the teenager, ran to his first-floor of­fice where he kept firearms, in­clud­ing a loaded 12-gauge Moss­berg shot­gun.

Dana Zei­gler broke down in tears as a se­cu­rity video show­ing the in­ci­dent was played again for the jury — this time in slow mo­tion. She bent for­ward, grip­ping her face with both hands and dab­bing at her eyes with a tis­sue. Zei­gler, seated a few feet away, was vis­i­bly moved by his wife’s dis­tress.

The teen’s mother, seated with friends in the court­room, also fought back tears at see­ing the video.

The video shows the 14-yearold Rochester High fresh­man, iden­ti­fied as Bren­nan Walker, bolt off the porch and down the drive­way as a shirt­less Zei­gler steps out on his porch, aims the shot­gun from his shoul­der and at­tempts to fire the weapon. The safety ap­par­ently was still en­gaged and he re­leases it and fires off one round, which does not hit the teen.

De­fense at­tor­ney Robert Mo­rad later pointed out that his client never went down the drive­way in search of the teenager nor did he fire again. The boy was not wounded.

Oak­land County Sher­iff’s De­tec­tive Shawn Pace said he found the video “of­fend­ing … es­pe­cially in this day and age.”

The teenager told de­tec­tives he had over­slept and missed his school bus, so was try­ing to walk to school and be­came lost when he cut through an un­fa­mil­iar sub­di­vi­sion.

Clos­ing ar­gu­ments are ex­pected Fri­day in the trial of Zei­gler, 53, who is charged with as­sault with in­tent.

On Thurs­day, de­fense at­tor­ney Robert Mo­rad pointed out that when the shot­gun dis­charged, the surveil­lance video re­veals a branch fell from a nearby tree, an in­di­ca­tion that the blast was fired in the air and not at the teenager flee­ing down the horse­shoe drive­way.

Mo­rad asked for


di­rected ver­dict from Judge Wendy Potts that the prose­cu­tion had failed to make its case against his client, to which as­sis­tant pros­e­cu­tor Kelly Collins said: “Be­ing a bad shot does not negate one’s in­ten­tions.”

Potts agreed, say­ing it was a mat­ter for the jury to ul­ti­mately de­cide.

Collins said a tran­script of the deputy’s in­ter­view with Zei­gler showed the home­owner re­ferred to hear­ing his wife scream that some­one was break­ing into the house and that he grabbed his shot­gun af­ter see­ing “that col­ored kid” at his front door.

Mo­rad also sought a mis­trial, claim­ing the prose­cu­tion’s main wit­ness, Pace, re­ferred to the teen as a “col­ored kid” and “col­ored boy” in an ef­fort to in­flame the jury.

Potts asked Mo­rad why he didn’t ob­ject when the state­ments were made in court. She said she would per­mit at­tor­neys to write a state­ment of how of­ten the de­scrip­tor was made, which she would per­son­ally read to the jury.

While Zei­gler is white and the teen is black, nei­ther side has ar­gued that the in­ci­dent was racially mo­ti­vated, though it sparked ac­cu­sa­tions in the com­mu­nity it was racially mo­ti­vated.


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