Former SPD officer indicted after 2017 shooting

Attorney General Jim Hood’s office said in a press release that 25-year-old Gary Wheeler, of Starkville, turned himself in Monday on a one-count indictment following a shooting that occurred while he was on duty on June 3, 2017. 

SDN Editor

A former Starkville Police officer is facing an aggravated assault charge following an on-duty shooting last June. 

Attorney General Jim Hood’s office said in a press release that 25-year-old Gary Wheeler, of Starkville, turned himself in Monday on a one-count indictment following a shooting that occurred while he was on duty on June 3, 2017. 

Wheeler was indicted by an Oktibbeha County Grand Jury on one count of aggravated assault. 

The indictment states that on June 3, 2017, he “purposely, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” caused serious injury to Zyterrious Gandy, who was 18 years old at the time of the shooting. 

Starkville Police Chief Frank Nichols said in a statement Monday that Wheeler was no longer employed by the department.

“As per standing operating procedure of the Starkville Police Department, the officer was placed on paid administrative leave,” Nichols said. “After returning to duty for a short period of time, the officer resigned for other employment.”

Following the shooting, Wheeler left SPD to take a job as an officer with the Mississippi State University Police Department. 

“In April, 2018, Gary Wheeler was employed as an officer in the MSU Police Department,” said MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter. “As of today, Mr. Wheeler has resigned his position at MSU and he is no longer employed with the university. Out of respect to the ongoing legal process, MSU will have no additional comment on this matter.”

The Starkville Daily News previously reported that the shooting occurred after a high-speed car chase that resulted in at least one private residence on South Wedgewood Road sustaining damage. The chase began after officers responded to a shoplifting call at the Sprint Mart at the intersection of Highway 12 and South Montgomery Street. 

The chase eventually led to the 600 block of South Wedgewood Road near the fringe of the Starkville Country Club golf course. When the car was stopped on the dead end street, officers tried to pull Gandy from the vehicle but he backed up and hit two SPD patrol cars in the stolen black 2014 Acura ILX. Gandy is accused of stealing the car from 101 Starr Ave. 

MBI officials then said Gandy attempted to try and run over the officers, who then fired shots. 

The vehicle then hit a resident’s porch on the street, before Gandy backed up and officers fired additional shots. 

Gandy continued off road and drove behind the house, exited the car and ran on foot before collapsing in the 200 block of Turnberry Lane - the street over from South Wedgewood Road.

Wheeler is accused of shooting into Gandy’s vehicle and striking him in the legs and stomach.

Gandy survived and was charged and jailed after he recovered. His case is also scheduled for trial during the current circuit court term, as he faces charges of grand larceny and malicious mischief, along with three counts of aggravated assault of a police officer and one county of failing to stop when signaled by police. The malicious mischief charge stems from the damage caused to the private residence during the chase. 

After being indicted on the previous charges, Gandy was also served a bench warrant in April for failure to appear in court. 

If convicted, Wheeler faces up to 20 years in prison. 

Columbus attorney Rod Ray is representing Wheeler and said “This is a case we will definitely take to trial.” 

Wheeler’s next court date is set for Oct. 15 in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.

The Starkville Daily News has submitted a public records request for Wheeler’s personnel file, body camera footage and all other documents relating to the case

This case was investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and will be prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander with the AG’s Public Integrity Division.