Cpl. Michael Wheeler of Ohio’s Mt. Vernon Police Department owes his life to a brave civilian who stepped forward with a drawn gun.
Wheeler said he was being attacked by a homeless man who later acknowledged to officers that he was high on crystal meth. Knocked to the ground and fighting to subdue the “very irritated and out of sorts” attacker, Wheeler ended up on his back with the man straddling him.
“I’ve never been in that situation before,” the 14-year department veteran told InsideEdition.com Wednesday. “I’ve always been able to take control of a situation.”
Earlier this week, Wheeler was able to reward Dylan DeBoard, the man who saved him, with the city’s Citizen’s Award of Valor. Every day, he remembers that day last year when things could have turned out far, far worse.
He often stops by DeBoard’s home, Wheeler said, just to say thanks. “Every time I see him I let him know how much I appreciate what he did.”
On that day last year, Wheeler’s shoulder microphone had been ripped off in the tussle, so he couldn’t call for back-up. And then the man started going for Wheeler’s gun. And that’s when Wheeler began to think he was running out of options.
“I pulled him in close to me to try to restrict his range of motion,” Wheeler said. But the suspect just kept “trying to reach my belt.”
And right about then, the man sat back and put his hands up. Wheeler wondered ‘What the …?’
He lifted his head and looked in the direction the man was staring. There stood another man, with a gun.
“I didn’t know if he was pointing at me or him,” Wheeler said, meaning the man sitting on him. That’s when DeBoard announced he had a concealed weapon permit.
While the suspect was distracted, Wheeler managed to flip him over and handcuff him.
The homeless man said he’d been high on meth for a couple of days, Wheeler said, and had been sleeping on a homeowner’s porch. She called police, which is how Wheeler wound up wrestling with the suspect.
He was arrested on misdemeanor charges including trespassing, disorderly conduct and malicious mischief. Wheeler said he doesn’t know where the man is now.
But he does know that he owes a huge debt to DeBoard. And he wishes, in these strained times between law enforcement and citizens, that there were more people like him.
“I wish a lot more of society would do what he did. There were people standing around, but they were just watching. I kept wondering why people didn’t do anything.”