A Northeastern High School graduate died after a shooting that a 911 caller said was an accident, but officers investigating the incident could need weeks to complete their work, Springfield’s police chief said Tuesday.
Eric M. Wheeler, 22, died Monday afternoon from injuries sustained when he was shot in the abdomen at a southeast Springfield house.
No charges have been filed, according to the Springfield Police Division.
Authorities were alerted to the shooting at 3:29 p.m. at 932 Barker Drive, about one mile from the Burnett Plaza Shopping Center.
Police Chief Steve Moody said investigators are evaluating forensic evidence and will speak with a forensic pathologist once the autopsy is completed. They’ll also examine toxicology reports once they’re available, Moody said.
Moody said investigators also will discuss the case with Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson and, if felony charges are warranted, it will likely go to the grand jury.
“There’s a lot to do, a lot to evaluate,” Moody said. “We want to make sure that we’ve got all the forensic facts right before we proceed. We’ll do that after consultation with the county prosecutor’s office.”
The investigation could take weeks to complete, Moody said.
According to the 9-1-1 call, the weapon involved was a 9mm pistol. Wheeler was shot in the stomach by accident, according to the female caller. The caller also stated they were “screwing around” with the gun.
A voice can also be heard in the background saying “I shot him.” The recording was approximately 7 minutes long.
Wheeler was transported to Springfield Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
A 28-year-old man who lives at the residence where the shooting occurred was questioned by police. A blood sample was taken as part of the investigation, according to police.
Investigators obtained search warrants after the family of the man being questioned refused to allow police search the house, Moody said.
A pistol was seized along with other items taken in the search, police said. The man later asked for counsel, and officers stopped talking with him at that point, Moody said.
Wheeler, a 2011 Northeastern graduate, played four years on the football team, according to Jets coach Scott Rolf.
Rolf called Wheeler “one of the most positive kids you could ever have on a team.” He played on both the offensive and defensive lines. Rolf said Wheeler once came to visit him after he had surgery during the season.
“He just always had a smile,” Rolf said. “He cared a lot about other people. … He’ll leave a huge hole, not just in my heart, but with the kids who played with him, our program and the entire community.”