After stripping a service gun from a cop who'd been determined to be unfit for duty for repeatedly stalking his estranged wife, the California Highway Patrol quietly returned the gun to him less than a month later.
Days later, CHP officer Brad Wheat used the gun to kill his wife of 24 years and shoot her new boyfriend before turning .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun on himself and taking his own life.
It was the only firearm he owned, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Now the surviving boyfriend, Philip "Trae" Debeaubien, 42, is suing the California Highway Patrol for returning Wheat's gun despite months of warning signs he was a ticking time bomb.
The lawsuit states that Wheat began accessing police computer databases to stalk Debeaubien starting in July 2018, shortly after becoming aware of the new relationship between him and Mary Wheat. Fellow CHP officers also assisted in the stalking, the lawsuit states.
On August 2, 2018, after learning the couple had moved into a home owned by Mary's father, Wheat stormed into the home with a gun while drunk, accusing her of being a "whore" and taking her phone charger before leaving. Debeaubien had not been home at the time.
Local deputies had been called to the home but Wheat had left by then and no attempt was made to arrest him. Instead, they had him assessed by a police psychologist who determined he was unfit for duty because he could not stop obsessing about his estranged wife's new lover even though their marriage had been deteriorating for years
On August 4, CHP stripped him of his badge and gun and placed him on desk duty but they never did bother contacting Mary Wheat or Debeaubien to further investigate or to notify them of the suspension.
On August 31, he was apparently back on duty with his service gun and had tracked down his wife and Debeaubien to the house of a friend after they had moved out of the other house to avoid him.
The couple was not there but the lawsuit states he was the likely perpetrator who broke out two windows in the house before leaving. The home owner called local police and CHP was also notified but no move was made to arrest or discipline him.
On September 1, Wheat returned to the home and this time broke all the windows out but no attempt was made to stop him, even as he continued texting and calling Mary several times a day.
On September 3, Wheat was armed with his service weapon when he began banging on the back door of Debeaubien's nutrition business.Both Debeaubien and Mary Wheat were inside.
When nobody would open the door, Wheat shot out a large window at the front of the business and made his way inside. He began chasing Debeaubien and shooting at him, striking him once in the shoulder before his gun jammed, which is probably what saved Debeaubien's life.
Debeaubien then charged towards the cop and forced him to the ground and the gun came loose.
Mary Wheat picked up the gun and ran out the store with her husband giving chase. Debeaubien yelled at her to shoot him but perhaps she was unable to because it had jammed.
Wheat managed to take the gun from her which was when he shot her twice in the head and once in the chest before shooting himself twice in the neck and once in the head.
The shooting was apparently captured on video by a man who had been sleeping in his car in the parking lot and was awakened by the initial gunshots but the video is in the hands of the Amador County Sheriff's Office who made it available to CHP but to nobody else, including Debeaubien.
Here is how it is described in a police report obtained by the Sacramento Bee.
“Mary is heard screaming, ‘No, stop it right now; (redacted), stop this,’” the report says. “A door on the vehicle is opened and Mary can be heard screaming, ‘(Redacted), stop it right now.”
Mary Wheat is heard shouting for deBeaubien to run, and then the sound of a gun cocking can be heard, the report says.
“A gun shot is heard and then Mary yells out something, which cannot be understood. A second gunshot rings out and Mary falls silent. A third shot is then fired.
“A fourth shot is fired, but has a different tone or pitch. This is followed by a fifth shot and a male voice can be heard groaning. A sixth shot rings out less than a second later and then there is silence.”
The lawsuit states that the CHP returned the gun to him to mitigate the amount of negative press the agency was receiving after another CHP officer from the same area office as was arrested for raping a 12-year-old girl as we reported here.
The lawsuit also points out the risk of domestic abuse increases by 400 percent in police families compared to non-police families.
The lawsuit also revealed that Wheat likely had even more Blue Privilege than most cops because his father had also been a CHP officer out of the same area office.