In what Michigan police are calling a "disgusting" incident, a 14-year-old boy from Rochester Hills was walking to school on Thursday morning when he was fired upon after approaching a house to ask for help with directions.
According to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, Brennan Walker overslept Thursday morning and missed his usual bus to school. The teen, whose mother confiscated his cellphone, was without directions and attempted to walk the bus route through a sprawling subdivision.
After getting lost, he knocked on the door of a nearby home, police said. A woman allegedly answered and immediately began accusing Walker of trying to break into her home. She then called over her husband, who chased the boy into the street, shooting at him, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told Newsweek.
Police have yet to release the man's identity. Before firing the weapon, he struggled with the gun's safety, giving the teen time to run away.
Bouchard told Newsweek he reviewed security footage that confirmed Walker's account. After police arrived at the scene, the man was taken into custody, pending criminal charges.
"There can be no world where this behavior is acceptable," Bouchard said. "You had a young man who was walking to school, didn't have a cellphone, got lost, and was trying to go through a subdivision to shorten the 3- to 4-mile walk and got turned around. And he was shot at."
Bouchard said his initial reaction after hearing the case was "disgust" and "anger." When asked if he believed race had anything to do with the shooting, Bouchard said it "certainly draws that into question." Walker is black, and about 80 percent of residents in Rochester Hills are white, according to census data.
"It loses all sense and any rationality when [the man] exits the home, sees a young kid running away who poses no threat and still shoots," Bouchard said.
Walker and his mother told Detroit's Fox affiliate that they think race was a factor in the incident.
"After watching the video and hearing the wife say, 'Why did these people choose my house?' I knew it was racially motivated," Lisa Walker told the station. "I don't know what other 'these people' she could possibly have been talking about. He was by himself."
Her son, meanwhile, said he feels lucky to be alive.
"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," he said.
Tremaine Phillips, who grew up only a few miles from the Walker family and took a similar bus route every day, told Newsweek that the incident makes him worry for his children. He said it immediately reminded him of the shooting deaths of Renisha McBride and Jonathan Ferrell, who both were shot dead when they approached homes after getting into car accidents in Michigan and North Carolina, respectively.
"It doesn't surprise me that an incident like this could happen in the Rochester area," Phillips said. "Frankly, I don't think any part of our country is immune to gun violence and racial bias."
Phillips said he'll be warning his daughter about asking for directions when she grows older, just to be safe.
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