A lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol alleging negligence in the case of a 2018 murder suicide involving a CHP officer has been filed by an Amador County man in California Superior Court in Sacramento County.
The 17-page complaint filed by Phillip Debeaubien alleges that the CHP entrusted Brad Wheat with a firearm despite knowing that “he was mentally unfit to carry a firearm.”
Wheat used his department-issued weapon to shoot Debeaubien, before killing his wife and turning the gun on himself in an incident that shook the community in September.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday, May 29, the CHP knew of “Wheat’s homicidal inclinations toward Debeaubien... (and) had actual and constructive knowledge of Wheat’s mental imbalances, as before the shooting they had taken away Wheat’s firearm and placed him on limited duty.”
The lengthy document paints a picture of months of alleged incidents between Wheat, his estranged wife, Mary, and Debeaubien, before the September incident ended in tragedy.
According to the lawsuit, both Debeaubien and Mary were separated from their spouses at the time of the incident, and “Wheat was openly distraught about the disintegration of his marriage,” and blamed Debeaubien for the separation.
The lawsuit alleges that by July of 2018 Wheat was aware of Debeaubien and Mary’s relationship, and was stalking Debeaubien.
The suit references an incident in which Wheat stormed into a Garden Valley home where the two were staying and called his wife a “whore” before taking her cell phone charger.
A 911 call was made, and according to the lawsuit, the CHP was aware of the incident.
The suit says just days later that it is believed Wheat met with a CHP sergeant and psychologist, “for an assessment, which found that he was unfit for patrol duty on the basis of his assaultive behavior and uncontrolled anger toward his estranged wife and Debeaubien.”
“As a result of the assessment, Wheat was initially suspended and then put on desk duty and his service weapon was taken away,” the complaint says.
The only firearm Wheat possessed was his CHP-issued weapon.
After the August incident, Debeaubien and Mary moved to the home of a friend in Sutter Creek, where Wheat broke two windows of the home in September, according to the complaint.
Wheat allegedly returned the next day and broke all of the windows of the Sutter Creek home.
Debeaubien reported the incidents to local police and named Wheat as the “likely perpetrator.”
The alleged window-breaking incident was just days before the fatal shooting on September 3.
Despite these alleged incidents, including the assessment that led to his weapon being taken away, the lawsuit states that CHP “gave Wheat the firearm and bullets used in the shooting.”
According to the complaint, the CHP “failed to properly asses Wheat’s fitness for duty and/or mental capacity,” and may have done so in order to avoid “bad publicity.”
On the day of the shooting, September 3, 2018, Mary and Debeaubien were inside his nutrition business in Martell, when they heard knocking on the door.
“At that point neither Debaubien nor Mary had an inkling that Wheat had been re-armed.”
The lawsuit explains the details of the encounter that ended in the deaths of Brad and Mary Wheat.
“Wheat, who had parked and gotten out of his car, shot out the large, front window with his CHP semi-automatic pistol. Wheat entered Debeaubien’s store through the shot-out window while brandishing the gun. Wheat chased Debeaubien around the store, shooting him through the shoulder, narrowly missing his aorta. Wheat took aim again, but his gun jammed. Despite his injuries, Debeaubien charged at Wheat, eventually forcing him to the ground and causing Wheat to drop the gun. Mary picked the gun up and ran outside. His hands slick with his own blood, Debeaubien lost his grip on Wheat, who got up and ran after Mary. Debeaubien yelled at her to shoot him, but she did not (or could not). Just after exiting the front window that Wheat had shot out, Debaubian heard the gunshots that ended Mary and Wheat’s lives.”
According to the lawsuit, the Amador County Sheriff’s Office has cell phone video recorded by an uninvolved third party who had been sleeping in his car near the business and had been awoken by the initial gunfire. They also have “Wheat’s personal journal which, upon information and belief, includes his homicidal inclinations,” according to the complaint.
In his complaint, Debeaubien alleges that the CHP had knowledge of the ongoing issues with Wheat, but failed to address them.
“The CHP has inadequate policies to protect those at risk from domestic violence at the hands of their officers,” the complaint says.
According to the suit, “Debeaubien was shot in the left shoulder, causing significant structural, muscular and neurological damage. Debeaubien also injured his knee and suffered severe emotional trauma and injury as a result of the incident.”
His injuries are described as being of a “permanent and life-changing nature,” and the lawsuit estimates that the cost of his medical treatment thus far is in excess of $500,000.