CHP settles lawsuit regarding off-duty officer’s murder-suicide for $4 million
The California Highway Patrol reportedly settled a lawsuit for nearly $4 million this week regarding an off-duty officer’s murder-suicide.
The lawsuit stemmed from an incident in Martell in September 2018 when off-duty CHP Officer Brad Wheat used his service firearm to shoot and kill his estranged wife, Mary Wheat, and injure her boyfriend, Trae deBeaubien, before killing himself.
DeBeaubien filed a lawsuit in 2019 alleging that the CHP and mental health professionals had ignored behavior that indicated Wheat’s intentions to harm him and Mary Wheat.
Stewart Katz, DeBeaubien’s attorney, said the settlement with CHP totaled $3.95 million while the settlement with the counselors was confidential.
In a statement read by Katz, DeBeaubien said he “was glad to be finally able to put this case behind him.”
“CHP finally did the right thing in admitting they messed up. Hopefully, the CHP re-evaluates the procedures of officers with mental issues,” DeBeaubien said in his statement.
The CHP declined to comment for this story.
The fatal shooting marks the first homicide for Lincoln Heights this year. In L.A. County, deaths among homeless people have been climbing since 2014.
In Aug. 2018, Mary Wheat’s brother saw Brad Wheat leave his home, apparently intoxicated and angry, according to the complaint. At this point, Wheat had been separated from his wife for months and knew she and DeBeaubien were in a relationship.
Wheat told the brother that he was going to where his wife was staying for a “confrontation.” The brother contacted 911 and his family, warning them of the situation.
Wheat entered the home where his wife was staying with DeBeaubien, who was not present at the time, and confronted his wife. He left before deputies arrived.
CHP officials learned of the incident and met with Wheat, finding him to be “unfit for patrol duty on the basis of his assaultive behavior,” the complaint said. As a result, he was placed on desk duty and his service weapon was taken away.
However, Wheat was given back his firearm and returned to full duty a few days before the fatal shooting.
Less than a week before the fatal shooting, Wheat reportedly broke the windows at a home his wife and DeBeaubien had moved into. The homeowner reported the incident to police, who identified Wheat as a suspect and informed CHP of his behavior.
The CHP took no actions against Wheat, the complaint said.
On Sept. 3, DeBeaubien and Mary Wheat were at the nutrition shop that DeBeaubien owned and operated when Brad Wheat began banging on the back door.
Brad Wheat reportedly drove around to the front of the store, left his car and shot out one of the store’s front windows with his service weapon. He entered the store through the window and began chasing and firing at DeBeaubien, hitting him in the shoulder, the complaint said.
DeBeaubien managed to tackle Wheat, who dropped his firearm. Mary Wheat picked up the firearm.
Brad Wheat eventually escaped DeBeaubien and ran out the front window after his wife. DeBeaubien lost sight of them but heard the fatal gunshots.
The incident was captured on video by a bystander who had been sleeping in his car nearby and was awakened by the gunshots.
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