|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - April 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Texas Rangers launch investigation into death of Cleveland Fire Chief
Polk County Enterprise - April 2009
CLEVELAND — The Texas Rangers have launched an investigation into the shooting death of Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Wheeler on March 30 at the request of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. The Jefferson County Medical Examiner’s office ruled the death a suicide in a preliminary report issued the day after the shooting. Wheeler was found in the kitchen of a second country home he and his wife owned with a single gunshot wound to his chest. Fellow firefighters and family members questioned the medical examiner’s ruling. His brothers — Ron Wheeler, a reserve police officer with the Walker County District Attorney’s Office; Jack Wheeler, an Oklahoma attorney and Thom Wheeler an artist in New Mexico — disputed the report in a story in the Houston Chronicle’s Wednesday edition. Many members of the fire department and EMS who worked with Steve Wheeler for decades also disagree. In addition to citing Wheeler’s demeanor as smiling and happy just before the shooting, family members questioned believe evidence at the shooting scene does not support the autopsy report. They reportedly plan to have a second autopsy performed by forensics expert Dr. Henry Lee of New Haven, Conn. Lee was an expert witness in the court proceedings that followed the deaths of Martha Moxley, Laci Peterson and Nicole Brown Simpson. Wheeler’s 9 mm handgun was reported to have misfired during target shooting a few days prior to his death, according to the Chronicle report. DNA, fingerprint, and powder residue evidence is still being processed. LCSO investigators found Wheeler’s body on the floor. The weapon on the table along with a gun-cleaning kit and instruction booklet. Capt. Harry Kelly says the table is a “logical place for the weapon to fall,” but family members disagree. Based on Wheeler’s injuries, the position of his body and where the bullet lodged in a wall four inches from the ceiling, Kelly said an unknown shooter would have had to be lying on the floor.