AN INVESTIGATION IS UNDERWAY!
By: Jamie Nash – Cleveland Fire Chief / EMS Director Steve Wheeler was found dead from a gunshot wound around 5 p.m. Monday at his residence off of FM 787.
Wheeler, 55, lived in Cleveland most of his life, serving with the Cleveland Fire Department for over 30 years and as Chief since 1982. During that time, Wheeler participated in, and provided mutual aid to fire departments throughout Liberty and adjoining counties, including East Montgomery County.
Wheeler also headed up the Cleveland Fire Academy, which has successfully trained and certified firefighters now employed with agencies throughout Southeast Texas.
When members of the Splendora Volunteer Fire Department learned of Wheeler’s death, they moved manpower and equipment to Cleveland to cover their city, and the New Caney Fire Department assisted by backing in at the Splendora Fire station. Northstar EMS volunteered their services to the City of Cleveland overnight, with the cities of Livingston and Liberty running their fire calls.
The ambulance transporting Wheeler to the Southeast Forensic Center in Beaumont Monday night passed by the Cleveland Fire Station with an escort, as flags flew at half staff and a flower arrangement was laid at the station and lit. Over 100 people lined the street as the ambulance passed.
The house where Wheeler was found, which is near the Cleveland airport, was his “home away from home.” It stands on property he and his wife owned, where they planned to build a larger home.
City leaders, firefighters and others who knew Wheeler gathered near the home in disbelief as investigators continued their work. Former Cleveland Police detectives Jim Cooper and Harry Kelly are now with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and are the lead investigators in Chief Wheeler’s death.
Friends say the Chief recently purchased a 9mm handgun that was found near his body along with a gun cleaning kit, and planned to take a concealed handgun class next week.
Funeral arrangements are pending.