Wheeler, out on bail, arrested again

OKEECHOBEE — It’s déjà vu all over again — Andrew Wheeler has been arrested and is in jail.

Wheeler, 21, was arrested Thursday, March 23, by the Forest Park, Ga., Police Department while in a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck that had been reported stolen in Okeechobee.

Andrew Wheeler, 21

According to Detective James Pickering, of the Okeechobee City Police Department (OCPD), that pickup was stolen Wednesday, March 22, from a home in the southwest section of the city. And while Wheeler was in the truck Thursday, the detective said Wheeler has not been charged with the theft.

Wheeler, who has a long and extensive criminal history, is being held in the Clayton County, Ga., Jail on a bond of $13,500. He is facing felony charges of theft by receiving property stolen in another state and obstruction of an officer. He is also charged with one misdemeanor count of driving while unlicensed.

Records at the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) show Wheeler was currently out of the Okeechobee County Jail on bond. He was arrested Feb. 20 on a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia, then released on $1,000 bond.

Prior to that, he was arrested in December 2016 on a felony count of grand theft – auto and a misdemeanor count of resisting a law enforcement officer without violence. He was later released on $55,000 bond.

This is the same Andrew Wheeler who was sent to prison in August of 2015 after being convicted of aggravated child abuse for beating a highly-intoxicated 16-year-old boy at a house party. Video of the beating was taken by a friend of Wheeler’s and posted on social media.

And because he had only been out of prison for 74 days when he committed that crime, then-Circuit Court Judge Sherwood Bauer ruled that Wheeler should be designated a prison releasee reoffender. That designation then boosted his prison term to 30 years.

However, the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 9, 2016, that Wheeler’s sentence was too long and the aggravated child abuse charge was incorrect. Justices then decreed that Wheeler should be released from prison immediately. And, he was.

Wheeler has been in and out of corrections facilities since a young age.

Records show when he was 16 he was arrested and sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

On May 21, 2013, he was sent to prison after being found guilty of felony burglary and petit theft charges. He was released Oct. 30 of that same year.
He was arrested again on felony burglary and petit theft charges and on May 1, 2014, he was returned to prison. Wheeler was released May 27, 2014.

He was then sentenced to prison for beating the teen.

Wheeler was arrested Thursday in Forest Park after the pickup’s in-vehicle security system, OnStar, issued a ‘hit’ on the truck’s location Thursday evening around 5:30 p.m. When police in the Atlanta suburb stopped the truck, Wheeler allegedly jumped out of the vehicle and tried to flee on foot.

But, he didn’t get far.

Detective Pickering said there were four other people in the truck with Wheeler — three of them were from Georgia and the other was from Tennessee. None of them were charged.

The OCPD investigator went on to add the owner of the Silverado last saw the vehicle around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday in his carport. It was not known Friday morning if the truck was locked.

Also, continued Detective Pickering, whoever took the truck apparently tried to disable the OnStar system because there is “… extensive damage to the dashboard.”

Detective Pickering said his investigation is continuing and if anyone has any information about this case they can contact him at 863-763-9785.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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