Kelvin Wheeler Jr., a youth pastor and dean of students at Triumph Middle School in Harper Woods, Michigan, believed being a father to his 8-year-old son was “dope.” Now, the 34-year-old preacher’s son will have to grow up without him after he was mysteriously shot dead last Wednesday.
The Detroit News reports that Wheeler Jr. had just left his father's house on July 8 when he stopped at a red light at Ewald Circle and Livernois Avenue in Detroit at about 11:40 p.m., where he was shot.
His girlfriend was in the passenger seat, according to his longtime pastor, the Rev. Steve Bland of Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit.
According to a preliminary police report, an “unknown male suspect” approached the vehicle on foot and “allegedly fired several shots in the front windshield striking the victim multiple times.”
Wheeler, who was “always fascinated by fireworks,” was reportedly watching some go off on the night he died, Bland said.
“[His girlfriend] said they were sitting at the red light, marveling at some of the fireworks that were being shot off in the neighborhood,” the pastor told the newspaper. “She told me she didn't distinguish the sound of fireworks from the gunshots."
The suspect took off in what police say is an older-model gray sedan.
"She's still in shock, and I'm working on getting her some psychological support," Bland explained of the pastor’s girlfriend. "I got to her hours after it happened, and she was still covered in blood. There's no way you can experience something like that and not be hurt by it.”
According to Bland, Wheeler was a minister in his church who was preparing for ordination while pursuing a master's degree in counseling at the Ashland Theological Seminary branch in Southfield.
"He was in the seminary, and was one year from finishing his master's degree in counseling. He was training as my youth pastor and he was big on trying to get others to find someone they could help,” Bland said.
"I never met a person who didn't remember him, because he was a very memorable person, which makes it real strange to me why someone would want to kill him," the pastor continued. "I never knew him to have any enemies. He had bought that Jeep from someone about a year ago, and it had tinted windows, so maybe [the gunman] didn't see him."
Triumph Middle School Principal Michael Carrauthers told The Detroit News that the 34-year-old was “an integral part of our educational process.”
"He was able to make authentic, genuine positive relationships with many of our students,” the principal said.
Wheeler was also an assistant football coach at Harper Woods High School, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Despite the many titles the youth pastor held, Wheeler stated in a Father’s Day Facebook post last month that his most important job was being a father.
“As I matriculate through life and its many journeys, I will obtain a plethora of titles, names, and potential achievements. The greatest title I will ever be the most proud of is being a dad and being able to call my dad,” he wrote on June 21.
“Being a father is actually pretty dope. Today I celebrate my best man right here. No words for the love I have for my ole dude. (Lol) Happy Father's Day to my pops.”
A day later after hearing from friends who felt forgotten by their fathers, Wheeler turned to the social media platform again to encourage them.
“I read a few post where people felt forgotten by their father. I was sadden[ed] by that reality. I actually love being a father. It's actually pretty dope. I have no words for the vacancy that's not being filled. However, be encouraged and be the parent you always wanted. Just know He's a father to the fatherless,” Wheeler wrote in the June 22 post.
Kelvin Wheeler Sr., the youth pastor’s father, told WXYZ that he is not sure what he will do without his son.
“I respected my son. I loved him. I don’t know what I am going to do,” Wheeler Sr. said.
The father described his son as a goal-oriented person who worked hard to achieve what he wanted.
He spent a lot of time counseling other young men in the community. Some who knew Wheeler told WXYZ that they believe his death may have been a case of mistaken identity.
“My friend is a ghetto superhero,” Rico McGhee told WXYZ. “The reason I say that is not all superhero wear capes.”
A GoFundMe campaign seeking to raise $100,000 has been set up to provide for Wheeler’s son, Kelvin Wheeler III.