‘I will try not to kill u.’ Then, CHP of­fi­cer, es­tranged wife were dead

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - SAM STAN­TON sstan­[email protected]

On Sept. 3, a 58-yearold woman was walk­ing her dog be­hind a strip mall in Sut­ter Creek when she no­ticed a scrap of pa­per that had been folded sev­eral times and left in a planter box near a Star­bucks drive-through.

She un­folded the pa­per to find the same mes­sage writ­ten five times with what ap­peared to be a black Sharpie pen: “I will try not to kill u.”

The woman tossed the pa­per back down, leav­ing be­hind what may have been the last in a se­ries of warnings about the hor­rific vi­o­lence that was com­ing.

That night, at about 10:45, an off-duty Cal­i­for­nia High­way Patrol of­fi­cer named Brad Wheat went to the spot and be­gan bang­ing on the back door of the Get Ripped Nu­tri­tion store owned by Trae deBeaubien.

In­side, Wheat’s es­tranged wife, Mary, and deBeaubien, her boyfriend of four months, im­me­di­ately feared the worst. Within mo­ments, Wheat pulled his car to the front park­ing lot, got out and blasted out the front win­dow of the busi­ness with his CHP-is­sued .40-cal­iber Smith & Wes­son semi­au­to­matic hand­gun.

DeBeaubien called 911, but Wheat forced his way in past the bro­ken glass and shot deBeaubien in the up­per left chest be­fore his hand­gun jammed. The two men strug­gled, with deBeaubien man­ag­ing to knock Wheat to the ground and jar the gun out of his hands.

Mary Wheat, 43, grabbed the gun, knocked the re­main­ing bro­ken glass from the win­dow frame and ran out­side as deBeaubien lost his grip on Wheat be­cause his hands were so slick from his own blood.

Wheat ran out­side af­ter her, where he ex­e­cuted her with two shots to the head and a third that hit her arm and pierced her chest af­ter re­triev­ing the gun. Then Wheat, an 11-year CHP vet­eran who had four chil­dren, killed him­self with two shots to the neck and a third to the head.

But why did Wheat have a gun?

DAN­GER SIGNS

Four weeks be­fore the bloody con­fronta­tion, CHP of­fi­cials in the depart­ment’s Amador area of­fice or­dered him to be an­a­lyzed by a depart­ment psy­chol­o­gist, who “found that he was un­fit for patrol duty on the ba­sis of his as­saultive be­hav­ior and un­con­trolled anger to­ward his es­tranged wife and deBeaubien,” a new law­suit against the CHP claims.

“As a re­sult of the assess­ment, Wheat was ini­tially sus­pended and then put on desk duty and his ser­vice weapon was taken away,” ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, which was filed in Sacra­mento Su­pe­rior Court by at­tor­ney Ste­wart Katz.

Katz filed the suit on behalf of deBeaubien, the only survivor of the shoot­ing, and notes in the fil­ing that the hand­gun was the only firearm Wheat owned.

Then, days be­fore the shoot­ing, the CHP gave Wheat back his hand­gun and am­mu­ni­tion, de­spite indi­ca­tions that Wheat had been stalk­ing his wife since July and was us­ing law en­force­ment data­bases to do so, the law­suit claims.

The CHP de­clined to discuss the al­le­ga­tions, say­ing it does not com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

But the law­suit, a 78page Amador County sher­iff’s re­port on the shoot­ing and an in­ter­view deBeaubien gave to The Sacra­mento Bee in Sut­ter Creek not far from where the at­tack took place shed new light on the events lead­ing up to the shoot­ing last La­bor Day.

DeBeaubien, who had known Mary Wheat as a friend for sev­eral years and shared a build­ing that housed his gym and her Cross­Fit busi­ness, said nei­ther of them were ever warned that Brad Wheat had been given back his weapon.

He also said no one from the CHP ever con­tacted them in the weeks be­fore the shoot­ing, de­spite con­cerns that brought Brad Wheat to the at­ten­tion of lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies twice.

The first in­ci­dent was Aug. 2, af­ter Mary Wheat had moved into a home her fa­ther owned in Gar­den Val­ley in El Do­rado County.

That day, Brad Wheat emerged from his Sut­ter Creek home and his nextdoor neigh­bor, Mary Wheat’s brother, be­came con­cerned about his be­hav­ior, the law­suit says.

“Mary’s brother spoke with Wheat and learned that Wheat was armed, ap­par­ently in­tox­i­cated and head­ing to the Gar­den Val­ley home for a potentiall­y vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion,” the law­suit says.

The brother called 911 and El Do­rado sher­iff’s deputies went to the home late that night. By then, deBeaubien had al­ready left the house and gone home. Af­ter he left, Brad Wheat con­fronted his es­tranged wife, called her a “whore” and left be­fore deputies ar­rived, the law­suit says.

That in­ci­dent led to the CHP tak­ing Wheat’s weapon, the law­suit says.

“The CHP never no­ti­fied us, they never told us that he had his gun taken away, they never told us that we were in dan­ger,” deBeaubien said. “I never got a call af­ter the fact that, ‘Hey, we’re sorry this hap­pened.’ Noth­ing.”

PRIV­I­LEGE AND ‘BAD PUB­LIC­ITY’

The law­suit spec­u­lates that CHP of­fi­cials gave Wheat his weapon back to avoid more neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity for the Amador of­fice, which had seen an­other one of its of­fi­cers, Michael Joslin, ar­rested in mid-Au­gust on charges of rap­ing a 12-year-old girl.

“De­fen­dants were mo­ti­vated in part by their de­sire to avoid fur­ther bad pub­lic­ity be­cause weeks ear­lier a CHP of­fi­cer as­signed to the same small CHP of­fice was ar­rested for child sex­ual abuse,” the law­suit says. “That ar­rest re­ceived ex­ten­sive news cov­er­age.

“They also were im­prop­erly mo­ti­vated to pro­tect Brad Wheat be­cause his fa­ther had been a patrol of­fi­cer as­signed to the same of­fice.”

Brad Wheat con­tin­ued to stalk the cou­ple for the next month, deBeaubien said, and the law­suit al­leges that Wheat uses “his sta­tus as a CHP of­fi­cer to ac­cess con­fi­den­tial law en­force­ment data­bases and to ob­tain other in­for­ma­tion about deBeaubien so that Wheat could hunt him down.”

On Aug. 31, while deBeaubien and Mary Wheat were away at Lake Ta­hoe for the La­bor Day week­end, they got a call that two win­dows at a Sut­ter Creek home where they had moved in to­gether had been bro­ken.

The next day, two days be­fore the shootings, all the win­dows in the home were bro­ken.

“The owner of that house then re­ported th­ese in­ci­dents to the Sut­ter Creek Po­lice Depart­ment,” the law­suit says. “That re­port iden­ti­fied Wheat as the likely per­pe­tra­tor and as a CHP of­fi­cer.”

De­spite that, the suit says, Wheat was al­lowed to keep his weapon, and ap­par­ently gave no in­di­ca­tion to col­leagues how trou­bled he was.

THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOT­ING

At 8:26 p.m. on the Mon­day hol­i­day, Sept. 3, Wheat had a text ex­change with Amador sher­iff’s Sgt. Pa­trick Weart, the sher­iff’s re­port says.

“Hope all is well with you and the fam,” Wheat texted dur­ing the ex­change.

“Hope all is well with you and your kids also,” Weart texted back.

“It is, ac­tu­ally me and the kids are do­ing re­ally good,” Wheat replied. “Wish I could say the same for Mary and I. Things are mov­ing so fast with her and Trae. It’s crazy brother.”

Two hours later, Wheat was at deBeaubien’s nu­tri­tion store car­ry­ing his hand­gun. The scene was cap­tured on video clips shot by a wit­ness who was sleep­ing in his truck in the park­ing lot and who later pro­vided them to au­thor­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to por­tions of the felony re­port from the Amador County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

The re­port redacts Brad Wheat’s name through­out, but in­cludes the names of vic­tims, in­ves­ti­ga­tors and wit­nesses, in­clud­ing the dog walker who found the odd note the morn­ing be­fore the shootings.

DANIEL KIM [email protected]

Trae Debeaubien de­scribes how off-duty Cal­i­for­nia High­way Patrol of­fi­cer Brad Wheat broke into his nu­tri­tion shop in 2018 and shot him in the chest be­fore fatally shoot­ing es­tranged wife Mary Wheat, who Debeaubien was dat­ing. Of­fi­cer Wheat than killed him­self.

Cour­tesy of Law Of­fice of Ste­wart Katz

Trae Debeaubien, right, had been dat­ing Mary Wheat for four months when she was killed by es­tranged hus­band Brad Wheat with his CHP-is­sued ser­vice weapon.

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