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Gang leader gets 54 years in prison

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

A Huntington gang leader was sentenced on Tuesday to serve 54 years in prison, after a jury found him guilty of shooting a man in 2017.

In March, a jury found Steven P. Wheeler, 29, guilty of aggravated battery, possession of a handgun without a license, criminal organization activity and criminal recklessness. Wheeler was found not guilty of battery with a deadly weapon and a preliminary charge of voluntary manslaughter was dismissed in January.

Huntington County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Newton sentenced Wheeler to 16 years for the aggravated battery charge, and that sentence was lengthened by 18 years for a habitual offender enhancement and another 18 years for a firearms enhancement, bringing the total sentence for count one to 50 years.

Wheeler was then sentenced to three years for possession of a handgun without a license, which will run at the same time as the aggravated battery charge.

The two-year sentences imposed for criminal organization activity and criminal recklessness will run consecutively to each other and the aggravated battery charge, which means Wheeler faces a total sentence of 54 years in prison with none suspended to be served on probation.

“Huntington County is more safe with Steven Wheeler behind bars for an extended period of time,” Huntington Prosecuting Attorney Amy Richison said. “Detective Shane Blair and his fellow Huntington City Police Department (HPD) detectives conducted a thorough and impressive investigation in this case. Our community is blessed to have quality law enforcement officers who protect and serve us well.”

On Sept. 26, 2017 around 4:45 a.m., police arrived at the 600 block of East Market Street near Second Street to find Richard Voght suffering from a gunshot wound to the clavicle.

Police say the shooting occurred during a planned fight between two members of an Indianapolis-based gang “2-1 Fatals,” which reportedly had chapters in Andrews and Huntington. Voght’s half brother, who was reportedly the head of the Andrews chapter, was supposed to fight another member of the gang in front of Wheeler, who was reportedly the head of the Huntington chapter, according to police reports.

Voght said an argument broke out after his half brother tried to back out of the fight upon learning the other fighter brought brass knuckles.

Voght, who later identified Wheeler as the shooter, told police he heard a “metal click” in the crowd before Wheeler shot off a round. Voght said he intervened shortly after the first shot went off.

“Voght stated that he swung one, maybe two times at Mr. Wheeler and does not know if he hit him or not,” HPD Det. Shane Blair said in the probable cause affidavit. “And then the next thing he knew (Voght) heard a second gunshot and shortly thereafter realized that he had been struck.”

Wheeler initialy denied being in Huntington that day but later confessed to firing at Voght “out of self defense.”

Wheeler was not licensed to carry a firearm and has prior felony convictions for theft and possession of meth, which contributed to the sentencing enhancements.

Sentencing enhancements carry a possible penalty of an additional six to 20 years in prison which cannot be suspended.