Case File: Officer Gary Wheeler of Starkville Mississippi

In June 2017, Officer Wheeler was on the Starkville Police Department, following in his father’s footsteps and making his mother proud. Then he answered a life-changing call. A suspect left a gas station after stealing some items and sped away in a stolen car, almost hitting one of the gas station clerks. Officer Wheeler got the call about the suspect and joined the chase as the third of four vehicles.

The chase went on for some time before the suspect turned into a dead end street. Officers commanded him to stop. Instead, the suspect put the stolen car into reverse and slammed into the officers’ squad cars. The officers surrounded him and repeatedly shouted orders to the suspect, which he ignored. While the suspect was stuck on the squad cars, the officers surrounded his vehicle and tried to break the window to get him out, but they weren’t able to do that safely. Officer Wheeler was the only officer who could safely discharge his weapon without putting the other officers in danger, so he did. However, that did not deter the criminal. Instead, he broke free and aimed his car straight for Officer Wheeler. Acting in self-defense again, Officer Gary Wheeler fired through the wind shield.

Once again, the suspect kept going. Narrowly missing two officers, the suspect haphazardly tried to speed away, but instead wrecked the car. After the officers surrounded him and the threat was neutralized, Officer Gary Wheeler and another officer, a former Marine, worked diligently to save the suspect’s life. Using past military and police training, they were able to stop the bleeding and transport him safely to receive medical care.

The suspect’s life was saved. And he wasn’t given the opportunity to hurt others (although he tried). Officer Wheeler protected himself, his fellow officers, and the public with his bravery and quick thinking. But now, Officer Gary Wheeler’s own life is on the line. Mississippi’s former Attorney General was looking for a high-profile case with a racial angle to make a name for himself. So he decided to make an example out of Officer Gary Wheeler and use his unfortunate and traumatic experience for his own gain. The former Attorney General decided to reward his heroic actions with an indictment and up to 20 years in prison.

The local NAACP doesn’t support the State Attorney General and believes that Officer Wheeler’s actions were justified. Furthermore, both the local police department and the state’s Bureau of Investigation have cleared Officer Gary Wheeler. But he’s now facing a trial with his freedom on the line because of the politically-motivated former Attorney General.

We appreciate Officer Wheeler’s commitment to safety and justice. Help the National Center for Police Defense support Officer Gary Wheeler and family through this difficult time. Our organization will continue to work diligently to provide the funding and necessary resources to fight this immoral and unreasonable legal action against Officer Wheeler.

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