Wheeler

The longer, original version of this story — one I much prefer — became this incarnation after editing. You can read the original story here.

July 6, 2008

By Jacob Quinn Sanders
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

David Wheeler began 2007 winning a share of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association Medal of Honor and a slew of glowing notices from Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson, culminating in a promotion to sergeant. He had what appeared to be a wonderful family life with his wife and three sons.

By the end of the year, Wheeler, 30, was fired, getting divorced and had spent time in jail on charges of assault, making terroristic threats and endangering one of his children.

Records show that he repeatedly threatened to kill himself, his wife and deputies from his own agency who arrested him. Deputies arrested him again last week on a charge of violating a protection order by reportedly parking just outside his wife’s property line and watching the house. The former sergeant is free on a $100,000 bond, though Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rik Ramsey filed last week to revoke it.

Nobody saw trouble coming.

“That sucker looked like a poster [boy] for the sheriff’s department,” said former Jefferson County Sheriff Boe Fontaine, who hired Wheeler in 2002. “He exceeded all expectations and succeeded at everything he did.”

But when Wheeler lost control, Fontaine said, he got dangerous.

“I was afraid we might have to kill him,” Fontaine said. “I was afraid he’d put himself in a position where he’d harm himself or his family, and we’d have no choice.”

Some police agencies across the country use early intervention systems to try to detect problem officers by tracking patterns of citizen complaints, internal discipline, uses of force against suspects and overtime, among other things. The Jefferson County sheriff’s office has no such system for its 45 law-enforcement personnel, instead relying on the regular work of its Internal Affairs Division, Maj. Greg Bolin said. Even if the agency had such a system, he said, it wouldn’t have flagged Wheeler.

Wheeler declined to comment through his attorney Bryan Achorn, who represents him in his divorce and in the criminal charges against him. His trial is scheduled for Aug. 18.

A STAR OFFICER

Wheeler’s mother, Terri Drew, said her son had long been interested in law enforcement.

“He loved it,” she said. “He always wanted to do it.”

The Arkansas Department of Correction hired him as an officer at the maximum-security unit in Tucker in 1998. He excelled immediately and in June of 2001 was named the unit’s employee of the month. Wheeler also volunteered as a part-time Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy beginning in 2000. Over time, the Jefferson County sheriff’s office took note of him. Fontaine hired him in April 2002.

His application the preceding December contained his handwritten description of the societal problems that he thought were most acute.

“I believe the morals of society are at an all-time low and are steadily dropping which leads to a lack of respect for self and others,” Wheeler wrote. “If you do not have firm morals you will not make good decisions in life.”

At about the same time, Wheeler met a woman named Shelly Jones. Although Wheeler was married with a young son, according to sheriff’s office records, the two began a sexual affair two years later, in October 2004.

Once when they wanted to have sex, Wheeler, a member of the Tri-County Drug Task Force, went to a hotel in White Hall and told a clerk he needed a free room to talk to a confidential informant, Wheeler admitted to the Internal Affairs Division last year.

Jones declined to comment for this story.

The affair began a few months after Wheeler and another deputy shot and killed a man during a standoff, on June 18, 2004.

Attorney Michael Boyd, who represents Wheeler in connection with his firing, said Wheeler repeatedly referred to the shooting when describing feelings that the job he had was no longer the job he wanted. Boyd said Wheeler’s response to the shooting contributed to his being diagnosed last year with post-traumatic stress disorder.

But whatever uneasiness Wheeler felt toward his job and whatever questionable decisions he made in his personal life, they didn’t show on the surface.

On Jan. 1, 2006, Wheeler was promoted to corporal. And on April 19, 2006, Wheeler and other officers responded to the call when an employee at the Tyson poultry plant in Pine Bluff shot a co-worker. Workers fled the plant, but Wheeler and the other officers went in and found the gunman. As the gunman raised his weapon, Wheeler and at least two other officers shot, wounding him.

Fontaine nominated Wheeler and two others for the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association Medal of Honor. They learned in January 2007 that they had won.

THE SUSPENSION

Wheeler’s work remained exemplary, records indicate.

But by September, his imperfections were beginning to show. The sheriff’s office began investigating him for abuse of power after rumors swirled that he had choked Jones while working off-duty and then threatened to arrest her for assaulting an officer after she slapped him.

Wheeler acknowledged during the investigation that he made the threat but denied choking Jones, and the investigators determined that claim was unfounded.

But the investigation did conclude that Wheeler had sex with Jones in his county-owned Ford Expedition, leading an Internal Affairs Division report to recommend that Wheeler be suspended for 30 days or be ordered to forfeit 30 days of pay and receive a letter of reprimand. The report also suggested that Robinson place Wheeler on probation for one year and reserve the option to demote him to corporal.

Robinson suspended Wheeler for one month beginning Sept. 20, writing in a letter that he decided not to demote Wheeler because of Wheeler’s past job performance.

“Hopefully,” Robinson wrote, “you will look back on all the factors that led to your suspension and know that any future conduct of this nature will not be tolerated by this department.”

The sheriff declined a request for an interview.

Wheeler faced other consequences, too. Records show his wife, Carole, learned of her husband’s affair in June.

THE 911 CALLS

His wife’s first 911 call came Sept. 15. Records show that Wheeler and his wife argued when Wheeler refused to leave their house in White Hall.

At one point in October, records show, Wheeler used an ax to chop up the back steps of their house, then threatened to cut off his wife’s head. He gave her a black eye twice, records show.

She called 911 again. In front of the deputies who went to the house, her husband cried and begged her to minimize what happened so he could keep his job, records show.

Carole Wheeler filed for divorce Nov. 6. She told deputies that during a telephone conversation at about the same time, she heard a gunshot. Wheeler told her that he had just put a bullet through a family photograph, she said.

The Arkansas State Police began a criminal investigation.

Robinson fired Wheeler on Nov. 14, citing unspecified “violation(s) of state law,” records show. The same day, Wheeler was admitted to the psychiatric-care unit at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, where he stayed about two weeks.

Then, early on Dec. 6, deputies again went to the Wheelers’ house. Windows were broken out, and a log had been flung into a room where one of their sons slept.

Wheeler was gone, but records show he returned in a fury, ripping off his shirt, tossing his keys and cell phone to the ground, and screaming at one deputy, “Shoot me, motherf*****! Shoot me!”

Deputies took Wheeler to jail.

“Upon arriving, Wheeler stated, without questioning, to this Deputy that he loved us like brothers and would not do anything to harms us,” Deputy Larry Aldridge wrote in his report. “Once inside the jail, Wheeler then stated, ‘I’ve killed two in the line of duty and the badge did not mean s—. I’ll kill four or five of you motherf—–s.’”

The next day, Carole Wheeler filed for an order of protection against her husband. Within a week, he had been charged with assault, among the other charges.

“I can’t discuss what happened that Thursday morning, b/c of pending charges, which are blown way out of proportion,” Wheeler wrote in a Dec. 17 letter to Robinson from the Jefferson County jail. “But if people only knew what had happened to me in the last few days leading up to the those events I bet a lot of people would have a total different perspective on everything.”

On Jan. 8, a Jefferson County judge ordered a mental evaluation of Wheeler. The report remains sealed. The Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training revoked Wheeler’s police certification on April 10.

His mother said he turned his Medal of Honor into a Mother’s Day gift for her. He gave her the medal, she said, along with a typewritten discussion of what honor really means.

“Why can’t people see all the good he did for them right now?” she asked. “He has certainly paid dearly for his mistakes.”

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Worried says:

    This dude is now at football practice watching his son and most of all the mother which is his ex.He sits off to himself and a bit strange.Wonder whats next.I will be watchin this dude.Its just a matter of time. Thanks for this stiry.Had heard rumors but didnt know what had happened.

  2. Adon Wolf says:

    Im using a new Name now dedicating my loyalty to a friend name called James Wolf from Dollarway High School.When Mr Fontains lady relative was fired for helping me I became a Drug Cop for the Sheriff Dept..I used the Name Carroll Dewayne Romine for many years..Carroll Romine was in a head on collision on Princeton Pike .The neice of Mr Fontain lied on paperwork for a man who loves her today..I was only a Sheriff a short time because at the same near time frame I was almost killed by Bill Sanders and the Jew Family across the road from Hestand Stadium…I became a US Army employee when given a choice of leaving the hospital with one eye or two.. A special piece of fiber optics was added to the eye replacement.This works just like the cell phone that sends pictures…I became a drug cop for the US army or have a face full of crushed bones and a eye ball completely pulled out of my head…Many people were busted by my Army division including the Leaders of the TRI County Drug Task Force.. The officers weregiving the option to couples to only prosecute the man in joint crystal meth busts..The lady would not get charged and no child services took the baby if the lab ran for one year and all property and guns went to the cops who busted them….Many people were busted in films and later prosecuted by cops who recognized them..Many of the people on film turned out to be cops that wore disguises and false teeth and wigs and hollywood skin dies..I really did work off and on for the Law 20 years.. Im going state to state to get my name off of criminal records and my case public..The tri county still prosecuted back logged cases that were still awaiting trial even after 2 officers were killed on warrent servings..25 cops arrested and 3 of them were representing the FED AND US from all the National Recognition from Washington

  3. rachel krissinger vaughan says:

    THERE IS ALWAYS TO SIDE TO EVERY STORY.I DON’T KNOW WHAT REALLY HAPPENED HERE BUT I DO KNOW THIS,WHEN THE POLICE WISH TO GET YOU OR MAKE YOU LOOK NUTTS,MOST OF THE TIME THEY ARE A SMASHING SUCCESS! ONE OF THE MOST RESPECTED GROUP OF POLICE (PA,STATE POLICE) DECIDED TO HELP A COUPLE IN DESTROYING MY LIFE.THEY HAVE DONE QUITE THE JOB,IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF! THE COPS AN THE FAMILY HERE REALLY KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON.DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.THIS GUY MAY NOT BE AS OFF AS EVERYONE SEEMS TO THINK.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s