Man charged with assault with intent to murder after police say he fired at lost teen

By: Linda Shepard, Tiffany Esshaki | Rochester Post | Published April 13, 2018

 Jeffrey Zeigler

Jeffrey Zeigler

During his arraignment April 13, 53-year-old Jeffrey Zeigler told the judge that there was “more to the story” that resulted in the man allegedly shooting at a teen who was looking for directions.

Zeigler, a father of two and a former lieutenant with the Detroit Fire Department, was arraigned on a charge of assault with intent to murder, along with a possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony charge, via video from the Oakland County Jail April 13 by Judge Julie Nicholson of the 52nd District Court, Third Division, in Rochester Hills. The assault charge carries a possible sentence of life in prison or any number of years behind bars if convicted.

According to a police report, a 14-year-old Rochester Hills teen missed his bus to Rochester High School and was walking to school when he became lost at 8:20 a.m. March 12 in the 2200 block of Christian Hills Drive.

The teen knocked on the door of a home to ask for directions, the report states. However, one of the residents called police and reported that a black male was trying to break into her house and that her husband had chased him into the yard.

Police arrived and discovered that the husband had chased after the teen with a 12-gauge shotgun and had fired a round toward the teen, who was running away, according to a police report. Police found the teenager a short distance away on the same street. No injuries were reported.

Zeigler was transported and lodged at the Oakland County Jail.

The teen is black, and Zeigler white, and prosecutors say the incident could be race related.

“There’s a lot more to the story than what’s being told, and I believe that will come out in court,” Zeigler said during the arraignment. He told the judge that his wife “was screaming and crying.” 

The prosecutor said the incident in question was captured on video by Zeigler’s Ring doorbell camera, and though a court-appointed defense attorney tried to assure the judge that Zeigler wasn’t a flight risk and is a “pillar of the community,” his recounting of the incident allegedly doesn’t match up with the surveillance evidence, according to the prosecution.

With a bond set by the judge at $50,000 cash surety, no 10 percent, Zeigler remained behind bars at press time.

The Rochester Hills resident has a probable cause conference scheduled for April 24. If he posts bond before then, he’ll be monitored by a GPS tether and is ordered to seek mental health counseling twice a week, among other release conditions.  

Zeigler has also been ordered to stay 10 miles away from the victim and the victim’s residence, making it possible the defendant won’t be able to return home if he makes bond.

That’s a win for the prosecutor, who asked that he not be allowed to return to Rochester Hills.

“I don’t want this victim put in a position where he might run into the man who tried to kill him,” the prosecutor said. “I think that likelihood is higher if they are both in the same neighborhood.”

On Friday afternoon, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett released a statement reading in part that “while the city cannot officially comment on matters under investigation, I am personally sickened by the initial reports, and they suggest behavior completely unacceptable and inconsistent with the character and values of our community.”

He went on to say in the statement that “our city has a strong and unwavering policy when it comes to acts of hatred. ... We stand by this position wholeheartedly and look forward to justice in this case.”

Zeigler told the judge he’s retained a Clinton Township-based attorney, but that name could not be obtained by press time.

Call Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at (586) 498-1095.