A California Highway Patrol officer who died Monday night at a strip mall near Jackson, the alleged shooter in an apparent murder-suicide in front of a nutrition store, was a CHP veteran of 11 years and first enrolled in the academy in 2007.
For Brad Wheat, 45, it was the same career path followed by his father, Lloyd “Buck” Wheat, who retired from the patrol in 2002, according to an archived feature by the Colfax Record.
Brad Wheat’s wife, a personal trainer and fitness coach, owned and operated multiple gyms in Amador County since 2010.
Biographical information from public records, her Yelp account and her public Facebook page show that Mary Wheat, 42, opened, operated and re-branded at least two gyms in the Jackson area since 2010.
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On Monday night, Mary Wheat was found dead in the parking lot of a strip mall less than a mile from one of those gyms, reportedly shot multiple times by her husband, also found dead at the scene.
Amador County Sheriff Martin A. Ryan said Tuesday that Brad had worked at CHP’s Amador office for about two years and was off duty Monday, when he shot Mary with a handgun multiple times in the parking lot of Get Ripped Nutrition in Martell, a small community north of Jackson. Brad Wheat then fatally shot himself, according to detectives’ initial investigation.
Wheat also shot and injured the owner of Get Ripped, who made the 911 call, according to a news release. The surviving victim fled following an altercation among the three at his store, and was airlifted to a hospital in Sacramento with a shoulder wound, sheriff’s officials reported. The injury is not considered life-threatening.
The incident happened about 10:40 p.m. Monday. A storefront window was broken by gunshots, fired by Brad Wheat in an apparent effort to enter. The altercation spilled into the parking lot from inside the business; sheriff’s deputies heard shots fired as they arrived at the scene, the news release said.
Chief Brent Newman of CHP’s Valley Division issued the following statement Tuesday: “The CHP is aware of a shooting incident that occurred Monday night involving an off-duty CHP officer. The CHP is fully cooperating with the Amador County Sheriff’s Office, as it investigates the incident, and is conducting its own investigation into what happened. The CHP extends its thoughts and prayers to the families, friends, and colleagues of those involved in this terrible tragedy.”
CHP advises that anyone with information about or inquiries related to the investigation contact the Amador County Sheriff’s Office.
One of Mary Wheat’s recent fitness endeavors, CrossFit Ruggededge, is located about half a mile from Get Ripped in neighboring Sutter Creek, where the married couple resided at the time of their death.
A GoFundMe page, called the “Wheat Family Memorial fund,” was set up Tuesday evening with a goal of raising $40,000 to support the Wheats’ two sons and two daughters, all adults. By midmorning Wednesday, the effort had raised more than $16,000.
“This memorial fund has been created to provide support for the Wheat kids as they move through the loss of their parents and begin to heal,” part of the GoFundMe description reads. “As we are all trying to make sense of this senseless loss, their children will understandably have many needs ahead.”
The crowdfunding page was set up on behalf of the family by Dr. Liseanne Wick, a program coordinator and suicide prevention expert for Sacramento-based care center WellSpace Health.
“It truly is heartbreaking and senseless,” Wick said, declining to comment further on Wednesday.
The Wheats had been together for 24 years, according to the GoFundMe page.
Those who knew Mary Wheat spoke fondly of her in the aftermath of her sudden death.
She would frequent a Mexican restaurant in the same strip mall as Get Ripped.
“She’d come in three or four times a week sometimes, just hang out at the bar,” said Gloria Vallejo, a manager at El Mira Mar Mexican. “She was happy, outgoing. Never had a sad face.”
Vallejo also said she used to play soccer with Bethany Wheat, Mary’s daughter, and Mary was an assistant soccer coach in the community, she said.
The violent incident didn’t seem to wake the quiet town, Vallejo added.
“Everything’s been fine, nothing out of the ordinary,” since Monday’s shooting, Vallejo said. “It was pretty calm. We didn’t know anything had happened until the next morning.”
Many reactions by other local residents on social media included some variant of the word “shocked.”
Reviews of CrossFit Ruggededge on Yelp were limited in quantity, all dating back to 2013 or 2014, but were universally glowing. Each review praised Ruggededge as a positive CrossFit environment. Pleased clients called Coach Wheat “wonderful” and “kind.”
Two phone numbers listed for CrossFit Ruggededge were not in service as of Wednesday morning, though the gym’s Facebook page has remained active; it was topped Wednesday morning by a link to the memorial fundraiser.
A candlelight vigil was planned for 8 p.m. Wednesday at Amador High School’s football field to remember the Wheats, Wick said, providing a link to a Facebook event.
Ryan, the county sheriff, on Tuesday called the possible murder-suicide a “tough thing for the community as a whole,” confirming that both were well-known among local residents and law enforcement.
In 2016, the CHP San Andreas office applauded Wheat for helping an elderly couple change a tire.
The incident may be especially hard-hitting given the town’s small size. Martell has a population of 282, and nearby Jackson had about 4,700 people as of the 2010 census.