Community responding to teen killed by deputies

January 20, 2010 9:24:21 PM PST
Parents at the school a 13-year-old boy killed by deputies attended is concerned about what the teen was planning.Early Tuesday morning, two Harnett County deputies shot the teen after he shot one of the deputies in the leg as they questioned him.

It happened around 2:30 a.m. at 1943 Highway 24/87 - north of Spring Lake - which is between Raleigh and Fayetteville.

Authorities said when the two deputies searched the suspect's bag; they found 250 rounds of ammunition and a gun. The sheriff said the teen also had two more guns on him.

When the incident happened, police said they had no idea the suspect was only 13-years-old.

On Wednesday, the medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill revealed the teen's name as Joe Wheeler, but the sheriff's department still won't release his name saying their attorney's state law allows the release of the name of a juvenile only if their case goes to Superior Court.

But since he was killed, his case won't be headed to Superior Court. In similar circumstances other law enforcement agencies have released the names of juvenile victims.

However, officials have said the teen was a student at Overhills Middle School near Spring Lake.

Some parents at the school said Wednesday they were concerned about whether the student was planning to end up at the school with his bag full of guns and ammunition.

At this point, no one knows what was going through the mind of the 13-year-old, but that hasn't kept parents from speculating.

"I'm glad he didn't come to the school," parent Lisa Hartley said. "That's awfully Columbine-like."

Hartley and a lot of other parents at Overhills said they wondered about what he was planning when sheriff's deputies found him.

"Was he planning to come to the school and take it out on other people first before himself, or put himself in a situation where he would have to, you know, where someone else would kill him," parent Melissa Pfeiffer said.

If Harnett County sheriff's investigators have answered those questions, they aren't releasing that information.

"It's got me frightened to the point where I'm considering home schooling, because what's going to protect my child from that book bag coming to school with the guns in it," parent Carisa Weiss said.

Parents also say they are saddened for the deputy who was shot in the leg, for the boy who died and for his parents.

"I'm glad it's not my child and I'm glad it didn't affect or kids, but I wish it had ended differently," Hartley said.

However some parents asked if the school was a target, why did he challenge the deputies?

"If you draw on a sheriff's deputy you're going to get shot," Hartley said. "They tell you to put your hands in the air and you shoot them, they're going to shoot back. That makes me think that maybe that was his intention."

Parents were also disturbed to find out what Wheeler had written on his MySpace page in the days and hours before his death.

Early Saturday he wrote, "death will come shortly for the next person who messes with me in the next week." He listed his "mood" as "insane".

A few hours later he posted, "no I'm a ******* who can't do anything right I hate myself". Under "mood" he posted "crying".

Early Sunday morning he changed the "mood" to "sad".

Then a few hours later his "mood" was "suicidal". And in his last post his mood was again "sad".

"That's so horrible," Weiss said. "That's definitely warning signs that someone could have picked up on long before the situation could have happened to the police officer and to that child."

Meanwhile, Overhills Middle School Principal Joan Wicker sent a letter home to parents Wednesday saying counselors, teachers and other support personnel "have been and will continue to be available to students, teachers and parents on an ongoing basis."

The SBI is also investigating the incident, along with county officials. The SBI will present its findings to the Harnett County district attorney for review.

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