On Thursday morning, in the city of Rochester Hills, Michigan, a black 14-year-old was reportedly shot at by a man who's door he knocked on, while seeking help after missing his bus. The teen, Brennan Walker, had been late to catch his bus to Rochester High School, and he didn't have his phone with him to look up the directions. so went to a nearby home and knocked on the door and ask for help.
It was then, according to Fox 2 Detroit, that a harrowing and dangerous situation unfolded. Walker says after knocking on the door, he heard a woman's voice yelling at him, accusing him of trying to break into her home. Then a man, identified by authorities as a retired Detroit firefighter named Jeffrey Ziegler, showed up with a gun in his hand.
"I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady's door. Then she started yelling at me and 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," Walker told Fox 2 Detroit. "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."
Thankfully, the gunfire missed Walker, who fled from the home.
A reporter with Fox 2 Detroit also interviewed Walker's mother, Lisa Wright, and noted that her son could have "become a hashtag," in the same fashion that many black men, women, and children fatally shot in recent years have.
Following the shooting, law enforcement authorities reportedly told Wright that the home her son approached had a front door camera, and that the encounter had been captured on video. Although the video has not been released to the public, both Walker and Wright were allowed to view it. She says that despite not wanting to believe it, the video confirmed her suspicions that her son was racially profiled.
"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?'" she told Fox 2 Detroit. "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."
Walker told the outlet that his mother had warned him before how black youths are at increased risk of violence because they sometimes "don't look their age."
"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. I'm kind of happy that, like, I didn't become a statistic," Walker said. The frequency of white people erroneously believing black children to be older than they actually are has been a frequent subject of scrutiny by racial justice activists and advocates, and it's been a subject of scientific study.
It's a very dangerous phenomenon, by virtue of the fact that it can lead white adults to perceive that they're dealing with other adults, rather than children. This was particularly relevant to the case of Cleveland 12-year-old Tamir Rice; the police who fatally shot Rice wrongly believed him to be "maybe" 20 years old.
Ziegler, 53, is reportedly under arrest, and has been charged with felony firearm possession and assault with intent to murder. The latter charge is punishable by up to life in prison.
He reportedly has a prior criminal history, having been charged with felonious assault with a dangerous weapon back in 2006, along with aiming without malice, and felony firearms violations. He was ultimately convicted of the latter two charges, according to MI Headlines. He's reportedly due to appear in court on April 24 for a preliminary hearing.