|14-year-old high school student Brennan Walker|
The list of what most people consider fairly normal activities, but that innocent African-Americans can be arrested, beaten or even shot and killed for, is alarmingly long considering we're in the 21st century.
Sandra Bland died of asphyxiation after failing to signal for a lane change.
But it's a fairly disturbing commentary on the current state of American society that a 14-year-old boy named Brennan Walker almost lost his life for simply knocking on a stranger's door to ask for directions to his high school on Thursday morning.
As you may have heard or read, after waking up late and missing his school bus, Walker decided to walk the four miles to Rochester High School, but he got turned around on some streets in a part of the Rochester Hills, Michigan neighborhood that were unfamiliar to him.
He knocked on the door of the home of 53-year-old former firefighter Jeffrey Zeigler to ask for directions and as Scott Anderson reported for WXYZ, a woman inside the home came down the stairs yelling at the high school freshman as if he was trying to break into the house.
According to Walker's mother Lisa Wright, she viewed a section of CCTV footage obtained by police from Zeigler's home that caught the incident on videotape revealing the woman inside wondering aloud "why did these people choose my house" - leaving no doubt in Wright's mind that the incident was racially motivated.
And as Wright told reporters, this is a kid, trying to get to school, whose father, her husband, is an active-duty Army special forces soldier serving his country overseas in operations in Syria right now.
But the Zeigler's didn't see that - all they saw was a scary black guy trying to hurt them.
|53-year-old Jeffrey Zeigler's arrest photo|
The 14-year-old put up his hand reflexively and ran as fast he could from the house, but turned around to see Zeigler firing a round from the shotgun at him.
Fortunately the shot missed Walker, but the Zeigler's reactions brings to mind the kind of deadly hair-trigger reactions of some members of law enforcement who seem not to see what's actually happening.
Instead they seem to be responding to some kind of pre-recorded track that's running inside their minds, one rooted in deeply ingrained assumptions about race and ethnicity.
To be fair to the Zeiglers, an unexpected knock on the door early in the morning can be alarming if you're half-asleep or not expecting anyone.
But it was broad daylight and we can assume that their front door had a peephole, and obviously there was a window near the front door since the woman who first saw Walker standing there knocking clearly reacted to his being African-American.
If she didn't know who he was, why not simply call through the door and ask what he wanted?
Jeffrey Zeigler hearing the woman (I don't know if it was his wife) yelling would understandably prompt him to run down and see what was going on - but grabbing a loaded shotgun, chambering a live round and then firing it at someone who was running away from the house?
As Jacey Fortin reported for the New York Times earlier today, Oaks County (Michigan) Sheriff Michael Bouchard said of Zeigler's decision to fire the weapon, "It's disgusting, it's disturbing and it's unacceptable on every level."
|Theodore Wafer fatally shot 19-year-old Renisha|
McBride in the face after she knocked on his door
If you recall that shooting, the circumstances were alarmingly similar to what happened last week in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Let's quickly review for perspective.
McBride was intoxicated and speeding when she struck a parked vehicle and wrecked her car in a Detroit neighborhood back in the early morning hours of November 2, 2013.
A resident who saw the accident called 911 and went out to check on her and noted that she was "discombobulated" and couldn't even recall her phone number or speak lucidly - he told her he'd called EMS but she didn't seem to comprehend and walked away.
Likely suffering from a concussion, shock as well as the lingering effects of alcohol and weed in her system, she wandered for almost three hours, eventually making her way to the front door of Theodore Wafer's home in the Dearborn Heights neighborhood of Detroit about a mile from the accident at around 4:40am
She knocked on the front door and he opened the door and immediately fired a shotgun blast through the screen door directly into her face, killing her instantly.
Possibly believing that Michigan's "Shoot First" law (MCL 780.972) passed back in 2006 could be used as a defense, Wafer initially lied to police investigators claiming his shotgun discharged accidentally - then he claimed he thought McBride knocking on his front door was a burglar trying to break into his home.
|Renisha McBride's parents react during court testimony|
In 2014 a jury concluded that an intoxicated 19-year-old woman who'd just been in a car accident knocking on his door did not represent a threat to his life and they found him guilty and sentenced him to at least 17 years in prison.
McBride's death happened one year and nine months after the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, so clearly the question of how race affected Wafer's decision to shoot McBride in the face hung over the entire trial.
In the context of all this, I think it's fair to ask: if an intoxicated 19-year-old white blond girl had knocked on Wafer's door at 4:40am in the morning on that November night back in 2013, would he have immediately fired a shotgun blast directly into her face at point blank range?
It's not clear that Jeffrey Zeigler thought he was justified in firing his shotgun at Brennan Walker while the 14-year-old was running away from the house last Thursday morning.
Time, and a court of law will eventually answer that question - Zeigler was charged with assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony on Friday.
But given all the global media attention that surrounded the Renisha McBride shooting almost five years ago, one would think that as a gun owner Zeigler would have exercised some degree of restraint before pointing the barrel of his shotgun at someone running away from his house and pulling the trigger.
Instead, at least right now, it appears that deep-seated assumptions about race overshadowed common sense, and a 14-year-old boy, the son of an active-duty U.S. serviceman serving in Syria, could have been injured or even killed for knocking on the door of someone's home to ask for directions to get to school.
As Renisha McBride's father told a reporter after Theodore Wafer was found guilty of killing his daughter back in 2014, "That could have been anyone's kid."