Down the road, there will be time to discuss bi-polar disorder and the role it played in turning former Seahawks offensive lineman Chad Wheeler nearly homicidal, and who and what was responsible for allowing it to happen.
But Monday morning, Wheeler’s victim, who will not be named here in an attempt to make her life slightly less miserable, had her first forum in King County Superior Court.
She was at the Maleng Regional Justice Center courtroom in Kent for the arraignment of Wheeler, a four-year NFL veteran and restricted free agent who was waived by the Seahawks five days after the horrific beating he allegedly administered Jan. 22 at their Kent apartment.
He pleaded not guilty to first-degree domestic violence assault (a Class A felony); domestic violence unlawful imprisonment (a Class C felony); and resisting arrest (a misdemeanor).
Keep in mind that both parties called it a “manic episode” from a failure to take his medications. He has also has already apologized on Twitter. The not-guilty plea is often used by defense attorneys to buy time to pursue more information and, in this case, to explore treatment options.
Appearing with a broken left arm resting in a sling, she wrote a statement about the incident that was read aloud by Wendy Ross, a criminal advocate supervisor with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office domestic violence division.
Here is the victim’s entire statement, with a warning that it is disturbing:
As you consider Chad’s custody status, I want you to know that I believe that as long as he is out of custody, I am not safe. When Chad attacked me, he first sat on top of me, choked me, stuffed his fingers down my throat and covered my nose & mouth with his hands. I begged him to stop. When I tried to get away, he broke and dislocated my arm. When I came to, he strangled me again, rendering me unconscious a second time. When I awoke a second time — covered in my own blood — he said, “Wow, you’re alive.”
When I locked myself in the bathroom to call the police, I could hear him speaking coolly to his father over the phone. Chad never called the police even though he thought I was dead.
Now, Chad is out of custody staying in a hotel watching this play out on social media. This current status places my safety at risk, and I do not believe that a protective order or a condition of release is sufficient to keep me safe.
My first request is that you hold Chad in custody in the King County jail and that he is not released. If the Court will not do this, then I ask that he be required to serve his time on closely monitored (24/7) home detention at his family home in Los Angeles. I object to him serving his time in Seattle, which places me at risk. I also object to him serving his time essentially on vacation in Hawaii.
He and I were supposed to be on vacation together at that location. Instead, I am here, undergoing medical treatment, handling a barrage of attention and abuse on social media, and dealing with the ramifications of this horrific attack. Permitting Chad to serve his time in Hawaii under these circumstances is not acceptable. Thank you for taking the time to hear from me.
Her chilling words do not mention the terror of being under the dominion of a 6-7, 310-pound professional athlete, a category of men who, by custom in this country, are often given the public benefit of the doubt. It was learned during arraignment that Kent police officers used a Taser on Wheeler once, to no apparent effect.
Despite the odds, the woman’s own initiative saved her life, and the 911 response was timely enough to begin the attempt for justice.
Superior Court Judge Tanya Thorp said Wheeler, 27, who played five games for Seattle as a backup in 2020, had been fitted for a monitoring device Thursday, and was ordered to remain in the the three-county area (King, Pierce and Snohomish). His trial was booked to begin April 6. If convicted, prosecutors say he is facing a sentence of eight to 12 years.
Yet to heard from in any explanatory way is anything from the Seahawks, the NFL or the players union regarding what they knew about Wheeler and when they knew it. Yes, it’s early in discovery, and there’s the excuse of pending litigation to cover for their silence. Besides, he’s been fired.
But at some point, those things will fall away, leaving only the victim’s words Monday. I’m eager to hear the words of the football side that illuminate this tragedy and helps avert new ones.
That she is upright and appearing in court is a near miracle.
I’m trying to understand the question here Art.
Are we having a conversation about where the line is between personal and societal responsibility for violent behavior in America? Personal versus societal responsibility for the treatment of mental illness in America? Is the NFL the parent in this scenario? Legal guardian maybe? Should they be? I genuinely can’t think of any statement the Seahawk’s organization could make except one that will deny all responsibility and foresight of the incident (’cause the lawyers are going to write it) then add the optimistic Reader’s Digest ending (“always looking to do better” “working hard to coach these kids” “make counselors available to help these youngsters deal with the stress of professional football”) blah blah blah. What could the organization possibly say?
I believe the better conversation towards a more positive outcome of decreasing incidents of domestic violence among NFL players (which is a problem) is in exploring society’s role in encouraging violent behavior overall. Has anyone reading your column or this comment been to an NFL game and stood and cheered a violent collision between Earl Thomas III or Cam Chancellor and any receiver? It is not overstating then to say you are part of the problem. NFL football is a violent game, and millions of parents encourage their boys to be as violent as possible when playing it. Honest to god, is that healthy? Have you met our species? So we have boys playing a violent game for an organization that chases money at all costs, uses players like tin soldiers, and somehow people twist back to the personal responsibility argument?
I’m not with you Art looking at the NFL or the Seahawks to address this problem. They are just capitalizing on a societal illness. In my opinion everyone needs to look in the mirror to find the true source of this problem.
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On-field issues first.
— The late Merlin Olsen was a fierce, hard-hitting defensive lineman. Unlike his peers, who felt a Jekyll-to-Hyde personality switch during games was mandatory, he said he didn’t believe you needed an adrenaline overload. You can make the bone-crunching, highlight-inducing tackles without resorting to temporary psychosis. That’s something youth coaches should start drilling into their players’ heads.
— The NFL might need to alter some rules to promote players’ safety without necessarily discouraging aggressive but clean play. E.g., the CFL does not allow fair catches on punts, but the coverage team must give the returner a 5-yard radius from the point where he picks up the ball before they can attempt a tackle. Violation of that radius is a “no yards” penalty, which tacks on five yards to the end of the return. Likewise, rugby has plenty of jarring, Kam Chancellor-type tackles, but if a player jumps in the air to retrieve a high downfield kick, the opposition cannot lay a hand on him until he’s secured the ball and both his feet are on the ground. Punishment ranges from a penalty kick against to a yellow card, which means you’re sidelined for 10 minutes and your team must play down a man in that span. Both of those rules discourage recklessness and dangerous plays (and likely reduce concussion rates), without taking all the excitement out of the games, like on all those NFL kickoff touchbacks.
I’ve been acquainted with many athletes, Chancellor among them, who are violent as the rules allowed on the field, but non-destructive off it.
I get your points about football rules, but those are player-safety issues apart from Coop’s claim of triggering human darkness. If it were true, I’d suggest we shut down video games that feature death and destruction.
Maybe that last sentence wouldn’t work. A lot of research suggests that connection between video-game and real-world is specious at best, and a LOT more study needs to be done. https://www.center4research.org/violent-video-games-can-increase-aggression/
Humanity has enjoyed violent entertainment since before Daniel in the lion’s den. Look up “venatio.” The NFL is nothing new or different.
“Why, slavery has been around for at least 5000 years and NOW all-of-a-sudden we have a problem with it??”
You had to know that comment was coming ;)
Yes, folks (especially young people) think that the societal ills of today are something new and different. History is the study of wars, conquests and one individual, group or state attempting to dominate, decimate or extinguish another… :(
Well, I hope history is more than that.
But the U.S. wouldn’t have been the driver Marshall Plan, NATO and the United Nations if we didn’t aspire to higher, and avoid using the world’s largest arsenal.
I think you are misunderstanding my point, and perhaps my age. My point is that our species is a particularly violent one (just like you said) and that male ego and aggression has been the cause of most suffering on the planet. That hasn’t changed. With that understanding I’m suggesting people do a little self-reflection on what is currently normalized, and try to reach higher.
The past is never a rationale for the present. It mostly shows us how stupid and violent the human species can be. Makes you wonder what stupid, violent things we are doing now that folks in 500 years will shake their collective heads in disbelief about.
In my opinion football has turned into an overly violent game and few true football fans voiced concern with the change. Most cheered. Boxing is brutality that causes brain injury. In a more enlightened world it would be banned. It isn’t a sport.
Recognizing we are violent apes (with my apologies to apes) should not automatically take us to resignation to be violent apes. As Art states right below this comment humans do aspire for higher ideals but first we have to get past the conceit of thinking we are perfect beings. No point in changing if we are perfect. THAT is why our creep up the evolution ladder is so slow.
Many ape species are violent. Some even plot and commit murders. Yikes!
If you think football today is increasingly violent, thank God it’s nowhere near as lethal as the gladiator matches in the Roman Coliseum were. The only way the in-event fatality rates of those events would have decreased were if the Christians had been thrown to the Detroit Lions, not actual lions.
And as far as boxing goes, it’s been succeeded in popularity by the far more brutal UFC/cage fighting.
Football is far less violent than 100 years ago, when deaths were not unusual, and far less violent than 10 years ago, when rules changed to reduce concussions. Boxing remains a sport. And I’ve encountered no one who has avowed that we’re perfect.
I’m not doing well following your scoldings of humanity.
In 2521 I have no doubt that professional athletes will play violent games for mankind’s entertainment, that violent men will do egregious harm to other men…and women, and that humans will hope for enlightenment and evolution in the coming centuries. Perhaps Ted Williams will be there to observe.
Slavery was a business proposition borne of greed, one of the seven deadlies.
We have always had blood-lust. We manage it better now, although Jan. 6 offers contrary evidence.
As for the off-field discussion, I don’t know where the individual-society line stands. Plenty of people are mentally healthy enough to go bonkers at Legion of Boom hits and then resume normal, serene lifestyles. Others don’t have that self-control, which leads to violence, drunkenness, and whatnot. My awareness of my own mental health issues makes me more judicious about what social and entertainment outlets to partake in. Others may not be aware of their mental issues … or they might know about it, but still choose to attend troubling situations anyway (a charged political demonstration, for example).
Society is getting better at understanding that there are certain things that should no longer be acceptable. The problems are getting decision makers to agree on how to implement discouragements and cures for those issues, and even if there’s enough resources to implement them. We need a lot of money and infrastructure to deal with DV and mental health, but after dealing with this pandemic and socially/racially/economically charged atmosphere, will there be any money left?
Well said. Thank you. I wonder how many bi-polars stormed the Capitol, or were they mostly mentally healthy?
Bi-polars storming the Capitol? Probably just another blue, deep-state plot and perhaps we’ll have to wait for 1-thinks-cool guy to enlighten us.
Save one or two Stockholm Syndrome victims like Patty Hearst, I rate them the same way as a psychiatrist in “The Far Side” critiqued one of his patients: “… Just Plain NUTS!!!”
Bipolar episodes don’t unfold in a slow burn, they blow up at a drop of a hat. I can be totally zen, but within thee seconds of experiencing or realizing something that upsets me, I’m destroying inanimate objects. Counting to ten doesn’t work with me; once I get to two, I suddenly think, “What the *#^&%$%!”, and I’ve lost it.
The best example I can think of that illustrates my bipolar experiences is in the movie “The Silver Lining Playbook”. When Bradley Cooper’s bipolar character suddenly realizes one night that his estranged wife has left the area and placed a restraining order against him, he starts screaming that he wants to get back with her, and convulses so much his parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) have to physically restrain him. And because it’s late at night and the neighboring houses are so close, the police are called in. I have never gotten to that stage where I’m a threat of violence against people requiring intervention by the authorities like that, but in general that’s what I have to worry about for the rest of my life.
Thanks again for the enlightenment.
It sounds like what you’re describing and the example you used for Silver Linings is “rapid cycling.” While I’ve experienced rapid cycling, I’ve definitely had times where I’ve felt mania coming on. Bipolar disorder is widely misunderstood mainly because people try to simplify it to really happy or really sad, when in reality bipolar exists on a spectrum and there’s many different symptoms associated with it.
Only Wheeler really knows what was going on in his head. And while I don’t doubt he was manic at the time, I’m disgusted that he’s using BP as an excuse and has taken no accountability. He was diagnosed 4 years ago. He has a history of being violent. And recently chose to stop taking his meds. That is on him. Many people with mental illness, including bipolar, are unable to afford appropriate treatment. Given he made well into 6 figures, this is not the case for him. I also don’t understand why he’s out on bail(tracking device or not) after attempting to kill someone. He needs to be in jail or committed.
I’m tired of seeing violent white people use mental illness as an excuse for their reckless behavior. Not only do they cause harm directly to their victims, but they also perpetuate the stigma that people with mental illness are violent and out of control. So many nonviolent people suffering with mental illness have been killed by police due to this stigma, particularly black people.
There is no question in my mind that Wheeler would be dead if he was black and his girlfriend was white. Especially after a taser was ineffective on him.
By the way, Art, bipolar doesn’t make you a racist or an insurrectionist. Please don’t lump all of us in with those fragile white supremacists. And personally, I don’t love the term “bipolars”(never heard if before btw). We are people with bipolar disorder. Bipolar people isn’t great but better than “bipolars”.
Yep, “rapid cycling” is what happens to me, whether when I experience a bad event or event something that reminds me of a bad event; see the use of the song “My Cherie Amour” in the aforementioned “Playbook”. Since the Capitol storming required a fair bit of planning (travel arrangements, silly costumes, social media networking), those weren’t bipolar sufferers; they were sociopathic clowns.
Agreed with you that the ultimate concern has to be to the victim, Wheeler bears the brunt of responsibility, and the judge made a huge error in not confining him until trial (unless there were procedural technicalities, God forbid).
I do contend that race outside of Whites and Blacks makes a big impact on how one deals with bipolar. My heritage is primarily Southeast Asian, and I was taught that expressing anger was never acceptable, no matter how unjustifiable the family punishment or institutional injustice was. Add that mandatory tongue-biting to the nascent bipolar, and that’s why when I started blowing up, I *really* blew up. Even now, I have trouble absorbing anger coping skills, because I still have that cultural inability to believe that sometimes, it’s OK to be mad.
Football is game that uniquely rewards violence. Most normal minds can perhaps compartmentalize the violence of the game from the demands of life in society. A bipolar mind won’t be able to do that. Plus, one suspects that taking bipolar treatment drugs may be counterproductive in terms of optimal game performance, thus encouraging treatment avoidance. Players who have been diagnosed as bipolar should be banned from the NFL. It’s as simple as that.
It’s possible that there’s a one-to-one relationship between bipolar and destructive behavior. But I’m not smart enough to make that sweeping generalization. I’d like to hear from a clinician or researcher. In lieu of that, I lean toward the experiences of commenter Kirkland, who has shared with us his views as one who has been diagnosed, below.
I believe the military does not allow people with mental illness to enter. That makes a lot of sense; giving a bipolar soldier a machine gun and plopping him in the middle of enemy territory with locals screaming “Death to America!” is just asking for trouble.
Other positions that directly impact public service should also have mental health qualification levels, and not just for bipolar. Clinical sadists should be kept from the military and police; the entertainment and scientific industries should be vigilant in monitoring depression (the same gene that promotes artistic and scientific brilliance also promotes addictive behavior); and those with a biological inability to process and display rational behavior should not run for public office. I’m convinced that Nixon suffered from an acute paranoia not found in people with regular brain chemistries, and I also think Trump has clinical narcissism (he may be physically incapable of processing the concepts of remorse and apologizing).
All of these seem valid, but some employees will protest against such screenings as biased or inaccurate, and some employers will cite HIPAA laws preventing access to info. I’m not aware of any movement to develop mental-health standards for employment outside of jobs involving public safety.
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Yes, football is a violent game. As are rugby, boxing and, to a lesser extent basketball and soccer. There are violent occupations such as military and police. I realize that the rules of football, rugby, boxing intend violence.
But we expect, and we witness, conservatively speaking, more than 90 percent of athletes in violent sports not pursuing violence outside of competition (not including self-defense). Violence is a part of human DNA; that we have socialized much of the violence into accepted corners of human activity is a feat.
My point about the Wheeler episode is the narrow area of dangerous behavior due to mental health issues. As the column states, I seek to hear from the clubs and union what their generic standards and practices are for learning about and treating potentially destructive behaviors. I do not believe sports automatically induce violent behavior. It may well be the opposite, by providing an outlet.
I don’t put blame on all of us every time one of us does something bad. Faulty reasoning.
Rugby is violent, but its structure and history make it less violent and more civilized than football, and despite its lack of protective gear it’s actually *safer* than football. Because there is no forward passing and no blocking, the only unstructured contact happens when you’re trying to tackle the ball carrier; that cuts down on collisions. And because play is continuous like soccer — once tackled, the ball carrier must push the ball back immediately to a trailing teammate — you have to quickly get in position to support/defend the next action, so there’s no time for off-the-ball chicanery.
Also, rugby insists on a strict code of conduct and decorum that limits violent behavior. It was founded in, and for ages limited to, the elite British secondary schools and universities (imagine if only the Ivies played football), and the players were expected to display the proper upbringing and behavior of the privileged classes, unlike those crude, uneducated working classes, soccer-playing folks. The player pool has widened considerably, but the behavior part still stands. Players are expected to refer to the referee as “Sir” (“Do I take the free kick from this spot, Sir?”), post-whistle shoving is hammered down, you immediately retreat the required 10 meters after a penalty against with no verbal or visual reaction, and if you so much as glare at the ref after a questionable call, he may tack on an additional 10 meters to the spot of the penalty or even yellow-card you, sending you to the sidelines for 10 minutes and forcing your team into a short-handed situation. Rugby fans believe that decorum differentiates from the recklessness and unsportsmanlike conduct that happens in American sports and especially soccer, it reduces the tendency for violence (hence the joke “Rugby is a hooligan’s sport played by gentlemen, and soccer is a gentleman’s sport played by hooligans”), and they love the required deference shown for the officials and opponents. Heck, if rugby people ran baseball, Lou Piniella would’ve been banned for life after his first argument with an ump.
Thanks for the tutorial. Maybe that’s why rugby hasn’t caught on in America. Not savage enough.
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I’m thankful the victim is still with us and hopefully she will make a full recovery. Her statement is indeed chilling and should make an impression on the courts. I would think since the assault happened in King County that Wheeler’s time will have to be served in King County. California probably won’t want to deal with an out of state DV crime if they don’t have to.
I’d like to hear why Wheeler hadn’t been taking his medication. As someone who takes up to 20 prescription medications and supplements daily for medical reasons I get how sometimes you just can’t do it. You need a break. However when it’s bipolar disorder he should know the possible consequences. And for all we know this is merely an excuse. If he’s pleading not guilty I don’t have any sympathy or understanding.
Wheeler’s Wiki entry says he was arrested for DV while at USC but never charged. I’m betting that’s how the NFL let him get by. But his arrest went so poorly that he was shot with bean-bag rounds multiple times. If this makes it out into Wiki don’t tell me the NFL doesn’t know. At the very least he should have been required to complete a DV awareness course and volunteer at a support DV victims and their families shelter. Set the tone as they begin their NFL career. At this point I expect an NFL and probably CFL career is now out of the question. It wouldn’t surprise me if he goes the Ryan Leaf route and tries coaching. Someone will hire him. I hope that justice is served and the victim can heal and move past this.
Well said. I can only say that my experience tells me that this poor woman will never, ever move past this. She can only cope with what is in front of her, one day at a time. Her life was robbed from her by an irresponsible killer. And the Seahawks knew he was on the cusp of trouble, but really needed an offensive lineman. Offensive doesn’t even come close. The least he should be is house arrest, don’t you think?
It seems logical the Seahawks knew, but I don’t know. I also don’t know what the CBA says about disclosure of diagnosed mental health conditions. That’s why I seek transparency.
Based on what you’re saying, I agree that he should’ve undergone mandatory DV awareness training and the like before entering the NFL. My question is, if charges were dropped and thus he doesn’t have a record/conviction/whatever, is there legal recourse to denying his pursuit of a certain occupational opportunity, particularly one in which he trained for the better part of a decade? Not a lawyer, and of course not defending Wheeler, but I could see the NFL’s disqualifying someone who’s only been accused of something resulting in a huge can of lawsuits. Legal opinion on this, anyone?
Of course, individual teams are free to not pursue someone with such a background; If I owned the Seahawks, I would’ve ordered the football staff to steer clear of Wheeler and Frank Clark. The accusations suggest they lack the capability to make sensible decisions, on and off the field, and I don’t want the team to face the PR bludgeoning the Mariners got from their brief employment of Josh Lueke. Let other teams deal with those headaches if they want.
Good questions that deserve answers. Perhaps the only sliver of virtue here is that the NFL investigation produces facts from which a coherent mental health policy is created.
Unfortunately, all we can do in the aftermath is speculate about his condition. Which is why I requested transparency from clubs/union about any documented mental health history, particularly after he and the victim agree it was a manic episode because of meds untaken for a diagnosed condition.
Wheeler seemingly fell through the cracks. I’d like to know if that’s true, and if so, how the cracks can be fixed. The right to medical privacy in this case seems moot.
To me, the obvious next question is this: who else is out there doing this s**t? What stories are we NOT hearing? These crimes are happening (hopefully at a lesser level) all the time and the women don’t report it because they fear for their lives – or have resigned themselves to equate love with being a punching bag. Which players, taking all sorts of testosterone enhancements (at the very least) are acting like animals? Can’t the NFL do something now, before they jam their fingers down someone else’s throat?
To be honest, I think this has been going on in society (not just with athletes) for ages. We’re hearing about it more because only now have people begun paying attention to this problem, it’s taken concerted efforts by victims’ groups to publicize the problem, and the tools to get the word out widely are relatively nascent. (Would #MeToo have happened a scant couple of years ago without social media?)
Hockey Hall of Fame member Bobby Hull was a savage wife beater, but almost nobody picked up on it until very recently. There may have been a concerted cover-up effort; the victim may have been unwilling or unable to go forward; society may have been more accepting of brutes then versus today (could you write “A Streetcar Named Desire” now?); and because Hull maintained a fun-loving, jocular persona for so long, people may not have even suspected something was up. And that’s just one famous athlete. Were there a lot of DV cases in average neighborhoods in 20th. century America that people never knew about? I wouldn’t be surprised.
That’s a rare positive I can take here, that in 2021 we’re more equipped to recognize and deal with domestic violence cases. If one of the 1970s or ’80s Seahawks had done what Wheeler did, we likely never would’ve noticed.
Good points. I think back to the 1950s TV show “Honeymooners” and Ralph Kramden’s implied threat to belt his wife, Alice, “to the moon.” Never did, but it was an implied subplot every show.
I didn’t know about Bobby Hull. I assume he never felt any consequences? But you’re probably right about the early Seahawks. Back then we may not have known the term bi-polar.
Modern-day reaction to “The Honeymooners”, from what I’ve seen on social media and YouTube comments, is decidedly mixed. Half the people think the episodes scream domestic violence; the other half thinks that Alice knew perfectly well Ralph was all bluster, and his “Pow! To the moon!” exclamations were just expressions of frustrations he was incapable of following through on.
Hull likely never felt any consequences for his DV actions because nobody knew about it until a couple of years ago, when #MeToo happened and somebody did some digging around. There is some push by fans for the Chicago Blackhawks, his former team, to remove him from his ceremonial role as team ambassador, and to cut all ties with him. But as he’s 81 years old now, that’s probably too little, too late.
DV has been a curse upon humankind for awhile. Only in the past 40-50 years have we named it and tried to shame it away. I don’t think any corporate entity is capable of altering the worst parts of human behavior. But as I wrote, I’d like to know the NFL/union position regarding a diagnosed disorder.
To avoid being triggered (I can’t even watch true-crime shows like “Dateline” or “48 Hours” without fear of flipping out), I purposely just skimmed through her statement. But the horrific details I did get tells me that until the legal process plays out, Wheeler must be kept either in jail without bail or in a psychiatric hospital. We cannot have him anywhere near the public, let alone the girlfriend, until his mental state stabilizes. I’m not convinced ankle monitors are infallible, and from what I’ve seen, restraining orders are practically death sentences for the issuers.
Wheeler is definitely entitled to his day and say in court, I firmly believe in the innocent-until-proven-guilty foundation of American jurisprudence. I just think that accusations of certain violent crimes require more precaution on the movements of the defendant in the interest of public safety, versus less physically malignant accusations (say, petty shoplifting).
I assume mental-health evals are mandatory here, but that is not going to soothe the victim as Wheeler walks about free. I don’t know what went into the judge’s decision to let him out, aside from the risk of forfeiting the $400K bond.