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Jury finds gang-related shooting suspect guilty

by Andrew Maciejewski

amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

A Huntington man is facing a maximum sentence of 56 years in prison, after a jury found a Huntington man guilty Friday for his involvement in a gang-related shooting on Market Street in 2017, according to police and court records.

Stephen P. Wheeler, 29, was convicted of aggravated battery, a Level 3 felony, possession of a handgun without a license, a Level 5 felony, criminal organization activity, a Level 6 felony and criminal recklessness, a Level 6 felony, according to court records. Wheeler also admitted to habitual offender and firearms enhancements, which could add anywhere from 12 to 40 years to his sentence, which cannot be suspended and served on probation.

The jury found Wheeler not guilty of battery with a deadly weapon, a Level 5 felony.

On Sept. 26, 2017 around 4:45 a.m., police responded to a shooting on the 600 block of E. Market Street near Second Street. Police say multiple witnesses at the scene as well as the victim, Richard Voght, identified Wheeler as the shooter.

Voght was shot in the clavicle and transported to Parkview Huntington Hopsital (PHH) in stable condition.

Police say the shooting occurred during a planned fight between two members of the Indianapolis-based gang “2-1 Fatals” that had chapters in Andrews and Huntington. Voght’s half brother, who was reportedly the head of the Andrews chapter, was supposed to fight another member of the gang in front of Wheeler, who was reportedly the head of the Huntington chapter, according to police reports.

Voght told police that as the fight was about to take place, his half brother tried to back out of the fight, since the other fighter had brass knuckles. Voght also heard a metal click in the crowd.

“(Voght) heard from his six years of military experience what he thought was the sound of a round being chambered into a firearm,” detective Shane Blair said during an oral probable cause hearing.

When other gang members tried to get Voght’s half brother to go along with the fight as planned, an argument ensued with Wheeler reportedly shooting off a round, which led to Voght intervening.

“Voght stated that he swung one, maybe two times at Mr. Wheeler and does not know if he hit him or not,” Blair said. “And then the next thing he knew (Voght) heard a second gunshot and shortly thereafter realized that he had been struck.”

Wheeler initially denied ever being in Huntington that day but later confessed to being at the fight and firing at Voght “out of self defense.”

Wheeler reportedly told police he used a 9mm pistol he purchased in Muncie for $100. Police say Wheeler is not licensed to carry a firearm and that he has prior felony convictions for theft and possession of meth.

As police attempted to obtain a search warrant for Wheeler’s residence, police observed Wheeler packing up a Buick Rendezvous, which was later stopped by police and searched, according to police reports. The 9mm handgun was seized along with a 22-caliber pistol.

Level 3 felonies carry a possible sentence of three to 16 years in prison, with the advisory sentence being nine years. Both the habitual offender and firearms sentencing enhancements carry a possible six to 20 additional years in prison.

Judge Jennifer Newton will decide Wheeler’s sentence on April 2, 2019 at 8:30 a.m. in Huntington County Superior Court.