Real Name: Doyle F. Wheeler
Case: Harassment, Attempted Murder
Location: Sun Crest, Washington
Date: April 19, 1988
Details: Former San Diego police officer Doyle Wheeler was in charge of handling the San Ysidro McDonald's Massacre that occurred on July 18, 1984. The assailant, James Huberty, killed twenty-one people and wounded three others in the restaurant. Doyle ordered the SWAT team to fire on Huberty; however, there was a delay of twenty-five minutes before the order was carried out. Doyle believes that at least four people died as a result of this delay. Despite the fact that he was not responsible for the delay, Doyle blamed himself and received great mental anguish from the incident. In March 1985, he attempted suicide. A few months later, in October, he retired from the department with a stress-related disability.
On April 24, 1986, Doyle was brought out of retirement by a subpoena; he had been called to testify at a murder trial. The defendant was a twenty-two-year-old black man named Sagon Penn. He was accused of killing officer Thomas Riggs and wounding officer Donovan Jacobs. The defense claimed that Jacobs had beat Penn severely with a nightstick, before he grabbed Jacobs's gun and fired in self-defense. Some suspected that the incident was racially-motivated.
Doyle testified against Jacobs, claiming that Jacobs was an aggressive racist who had a particular dislike for African American suspects. He claimed that Jacobs had been written up for police brutality and other incidents against minorities. Jacobs denied this and claimed that Doyle was lying. However, other San Diego officers also came forward, testifying that Jacobs did exhibit racist attitudes. Penn was later found not guilty of the charges and was released.
In June 1986, Doyle and his family left San Diego for Sun Crest, Washington, in order to escape the controversy of both the McDonald's Massacre and the Sagon Penn trial. Doyle claimed that on April 19, 1988, at least three unidentified men broke into his home. One of the men pulled a gun on him as he was working on the refrigerator in his kitchen. A second man put a rope around his neck. They then forced him into one of his bedrooms. While this was happening, Doyle heard the third man upstairs, ransacking the house.
The assailants told Doyle that he was going to write a suicide note. When he refused, they physically assaulted him; they punched him, kicked him, and burned him with cigarettes. However, when they threatened to kill his children, he agreed to write the note. It read: To the San Diego Police, I lied at the trial about Donovan Jacobs and the police department. I'm sorry. I make this statement of my own free will. - Doyle F. Wheeler
After Doyle finished writing the note, he was taken to the basement. The assailants tied his hands and feet together. The dark-haired man went upstairs, presumably to talk to the third man. He then returned and made a phone call from the phone in the basement. After that, the man returned and told Doyle that they were going to make his death look like a drug deal gone wrong. The men then placed a pillow over his head and shot him. Fortunately, he moved his head enough so that the bullet only grazed the side of his head. Once he heard the men drive away, he struggled to make his way to the laundry room. Once inside, he was able to pull the phone off of the table with his foot. He then used his tongue to dial 911. A few minutes later, paramedics arrived and he was taken to the hospital.
The police department went through the Wheeler home, looking for clues. Their master bedroom had been ransacked; the assailant had apparently been looking for one of Doyle's badges. In another room, investigators found the notepad on which Doyle was forced to write. They were able to make out the words "San Diego Police" and "Donovan Jacobs". They immediately called the San Diego police chief. He raised a surprising possibility: that Doyle may have staged the entire incident.
Investigators in Washington looked into the possibility that the crime had been staged. However, they found no evidence to support this theory. Jacobs believed that Doyle staged the attack for attention. He claimed that Doyle's suicide attempts and testimony at the Penn trial were also ways that he got "attention". Doyle, however, denies this and believes that Jacobs or other San Diego officers may have been involved in the attack.
There are two facts that point to a possible conspiracy involving members of the San Diego police department. First, Doyle noted that he recognized the dark-haired man as an informant for the narcotics division of the San Diego police force. Next, phone records showed that the call made by the dark-haired man was to the narcotics division of the San Diego police. A recording by the department showed that the caller asked for Donovan Jacobs.
Jacobs, however, claims that he is being framed for the crime. He believes that Doyle himself placed the call. San Diego officers who heard the call, however, do not believe that Doyle was the caller. Doyle was asked to take a lie detector test, but he refused. He claimed that he did not take one because the investigators said that they were not going to "bother" the other suspects about taking the test. Jacobs was also asked to take a lie detector test; he declined.
Jacobs believes that Doyle set up the attack; he cited the lack of evidence of forced entry into Doyle's house and stated that he believes Doyle did this for further publicity and to further discredit Jacobs. Despite Jacobs' allegations that the attack was staged, several neighbors and eyewitnesses reported seeing at least four unidentified men around the Wheeler home on the day of the attack.
Shortly before paramedics arrived at the scene, a neighbor noticed Doyle's car speeding away from the home. That morning, the same neighbor also noticed a suspicious blue Toyota parked in front of his home. Earlier that morning, another local resident noticed a similar car, twelve miles from the Wheeler home. The witness noticed four men standing around the car. The day after the attack, Doyle's car was found in the exact same location where the witness saw the blue Toyota the day before.
Suspects: Former police officer Donovan Jacobs is a suspect. Doyle suspects that Jacobs or another San Diego officer hired the men to attack and kill him because of his testimony against Jacobs and police brutality. Jacobs, however, denies any involvement in the attack. He and some officers suspect that Doyle staged the attack himself.
In June 1989, members of the San Diego police department threw a party celebrating Doyle's departure. Jacobs allegedly sold shirts at the party which said "Doyle Wheeler Hit Team" and had a picture of an ear (which was where Doyle was shot at). Doyle believed that the party and shirts was more evidence that officers were involved.
The blond haired unidentified man that attacked Doyle was described as in his late twenties (in 1989), 6'0", extremely thin, wearing a gold earring in his left ear and with a tattoo of a double lightning bolt (a Nazi symbol) on his left hand and a pockmarked face. The dark-haired assailant was described as also in his late twenties (in 1989), 6'0" to 6'2" with a slender, athletic build, crooked teeth and one large pockmark on his left cheek. Wheeler theorizes he may have been a former drug informant for the San Diego police department.
Neither of the assailants have ever been identified. They may have been driving a dark blue, hatchback Toyota Celica.
Extra Notes: This case aired as a part of the November 8, 1989 episode.
This case was never re-aired and was excluded from the Amazon Prime episodes, allegedly because Jacobs sued Unsolved Mysteries over his portrayal in it.
- Man Acquitted of Killing Officer - July 17, 1987
- San Diego Murder Trial Witness Shot - April 20, 1988
- Former Police Lieutenant Who Testified Against Fellow Officer Shot - April 20, 1988
- Wounding of Ex-Officer Who Testified for Defense at Penn Trial Still a Puzzle - April 21, 1988
- Ex-San Diego Officer Blames Former Colleagues for Attack - April 21, 1988
- Ex-officer says attack was revenge - April 21, 1988
- Ex-cop denies allegations that he staged shooting - April 22, 1988
- 'Miami Vice' Hits San Diego - May 22, 1988
- Call to San Diego Police Is Key in Attack on Ex-Officer - July 21, 1988
- Wheeler's case could go unsolved - July 29, 1988
- Probe Stymied in Shooting of Former Officer - July 29, 1988
- Probe of Ex-Officer's Shooting Inconclusive - February 3, 1989
- Ex-cop still sad his story has doubters - April 19, 1989
- San Diego cops celebrate with party, T-shirts - June 7, 1989
- Unsolved Mysteries acting not easy for Spokane man - August 11, 1989
- Crime show’s crew re-creates ‘Unsolved’ Spokane shooting - August 14, 1989
- Sagon Penn case surfaces again - October 19, 1989
- Viewers phone after show on Doyle Wheeler - November 10, 1989
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Doyle Wheeler