Three Case Studies: Blacks Seeking Help Often Risk Their Lives

Brennan Walker

By Frederick H. Lowe

Special from

( – Fourteen-year-old Brennan Walker, a black high school student, knocked on a stranger’s door to ask directions to school after oversleeping and missing the bus. He was walking to school in Rochester Hills, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, when he became lost.

He was greeted by a hysterical white woman screaming, “why are you trying to break into my house?”

She roused her husband, Jeffrey Ziegler, who ran to the door with a loaded shotgun. Ziegler, a retired fireman who is white, fired one shot, missing Walker who ran away, hid and cried. Police arrested Ziegler, charging him with assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

This was a traumatic experience for Walker, but he’s lucky to be alive based on past cases of blacks seeking help. In at least two instances, blacks who knocked on the wrong white person’s door seeking assistance ended up dead.

Jonathan Ferrell

One of the victims was Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A&M student and football player, who was involved in a one-car accident in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Randall Kerrick, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, police officer, shot to death Ferrell, 24, who was seeking help following the accident.

Ferrell knocked on Sarah McCartney’s door for help. She called police claiming Ferrell, a Black man, was trying to break into her house. She said the same exact words as the woman who screamed at Walker. Kerrick arrived on the scene and shot the unarmed Ferrell 10 times, instantly killing him on September 14, 2013. Kerrick claimed he feared for his life. Police often say this when they confront a black man. Kerrick walked.

The next day, police discovered Ferrell’s wrecked car in a nearby ditch, and they realized he was seeking help.

Renisha McBride

Another victim was nineteen-year-old Renisha McBribe. She was shot to death on November 2, 2013, when she knocked on the windows and the door of a house owned by Theodore Wafer in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, seeking help after crashing her car.

Wafer fired through the door, killing McBride after claiming he thought she was a burglar, a common reason whites find to shoot blacks.

Wafer is now serving 17 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder, manslaughter and weapons violations.

We as blacks have a list of things that put our lives in danger. They include driving while black, shopping while black, walking while black, breathing while black and now seeking help while black.

Blacks risk seeking help from whites because we look at ourselves and see nothing threatening, forgetting that many whites, including police and women, don’t see us that way. The way they view blacks is startlingly similar as if they all have attended the same class.

For example, women clutch their purses when they see a black man and security guards only follow only blacks in stores. Police officers who shoot and kill black men say they feared for their lives.

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