Detroit police investigate fatal shooting of Harper Woods school official

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Investigators are trying to determine why a gunman last week walked up to a car that was stopped a red light and opened fire, killing a 34-year-old Harper Woods school official and seminary student known for mentoring young people.

Kelvin Wheeler Jr., dean of students at Triumph Middle School in Harper Woods, had reportedly just left his father's house on July 8 and was driving northbound on Livernois about 11:40 p.m. when he stopped at a red light at Ewald Circle, police said. Wheeler's girlfriend was in the passenger seat, according to his pastor.

Kelvin Wheeler Jr.

"An unknown male suspect then approached the vehicle on foot and allegedly fired several shots in the front windshield striking the victim multiple times," a Detroit police preliminary report said.

The suspect drove northbound on Livernois in what police described as an older-model gray sedan.

"The case is still under investigation, and we're still seeking the suspect," Detroit police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said. 

The Rev. Steve Bland of Liberty Temple Baptist Church said Wheeler lived with his 8-year-old son and was studying to get his master's degree in counseling from the Ashland Theological Seminary Southfield branch.

"He was a minister in my church, and I was preparing him for ordination," Bland said. "He was in the seminary and was one year from finishing his master's degree in counseling. He was training as my youth pastor, and he was big on trying to get others to find someone they could help.

"I never met a person who didn't remember him because he was a very memorable person, which makes it real strange to me why someone would want to kill him," Bland said. "I never knew him to have any enemies. He had bought that Jeep from someone about a year ago, and it had tinted windows, so maybe (the gunman) didn't see him."

There are several businesses in the area of the shooting that could possibly have surveillance footage of the incident, including a Bank of America branch, a Rite Aid drugstore, and Wendy's and Taco Bell restaurants. 

According to Wheeler's LinkedIn account, in addition to his job at Triumph Middle School, he was an assistant football coach at Harper Woods High School, and a "success coach" in the Harper Woods school district.

"Mr. Wheeler was an integral part of our educational process at Triumph Middle School," principal Michael Carrauthers said. "He was able to make authentic, genuine positive relationships with many of our students.

"His service went way beyond his capacity as our dean of students. He attended our student's concerts, honor ceremonies, and was a father figure to many of our students. He was an assistant varsity football coach and mentored many of our students in the district. Mr. Wheeler was active in our student’s growth and development as young people. He will be sorely missed."

The Southfield Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. honored Wheeler with a Facebook post: "You did your best Nupe! A hard working brother of Kappa and a true Nupe’s Nupe. So thankful for your leadership and friendship. We love you and will miss you tremendously...until we meet again on the Golden Shore." 

Bland said Wheeler was a "class act."

"I was preparing him to become a senior pastor at his own church. That was his dream, but he never got a chance to do that," Bland said. "But then again, he tended to pastor everyone he came around. So, maybe he was living his dream all along."

Anyone with information is asked to please call the Detroit Police Homicide Unit at 313-596-2260 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-Speak Up.