Kelvin Wheeler Jr., an academic coach at Triumph Middle School and assistant football coach at Harper Woods High School, was fatally shot in Detroit July 8.

Kelvin Wheeler Jr., an academic coach at Triumph Middle School and assistant football coach at Harper Woods High School, was fatally shot in Detroit July 8.

Photo provided by Chaka Johnson

Community mourns Harper Woods educator

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published July 23, 2020


HARPER WOODS — The local community is mourning the loss of Kelvin Wheeler Jr., who was killed July 8.

Wheeler, 34, was an academic coach at Harper Woods’ Triumph Middle School and an assistant football coach at Harper Woods High School. He also was an active member of Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit.

According to the Detroit police, Wheeler was returning home from his father’s house in the 13900 block of Livernois Avenue, near Ewald Circle. At approximately 11:40 p.m., police said, Wheeler and his girlfriend were in his white 2019 Jeep Cherokee northbound on Livernois when they stopped at a red light. Investigators said an unknown male suspect approached the vehicle on foot and fired several shots into the front windshield of the Jeep, striking Wheeler several times. They said that his girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat, was unharmed.

The department said that the suspect then got into an older model gray sedan and fled northbound on Livernois. Wheeler was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Detroit police, who said the investigation is ongoing.

Local leaders described Wheeler as a man who worked tirelessly to make things better. Harper Woods Schools Superintendent Steven McGhee had worked with Wheeler several times throughout their respective careers and called his death an “unmitigated tragedy.”

“I knew him pretty much all of his life,” McGhee said. “He worked for me at Central High School (in Detroit) and went to several other locations before coming to Triumph. He was a must-have for me after I had become superintendent. He had great work ethic and great passion for others. He was a valued member of the Harper Woods family and had great potential beyond education. He will be sorely missed. The contributions he made to students in Harper Woods and Detroit were invaluable.”

Wheeler served as a youth minister and church leader at the Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit and had a close friendship with its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Steven Bland Jr.

“A lot of people who I have helped in 36 years of ministry, I call them my sons and daughters, but after knowing Kelvin for half his life, I think of him as an actual son and myself as a father,” said Bland. “I had been looking forward to installing him in a church of his own one day, and now that will not happen.”

Bland lauded Wheeler’s active presence in the community and said he was always eager to help others, especially young people.

“He was one who was heavily involved with the young people of the community,” he said. “He was involved at Triumph Middle School and served as a coach in the schools there. He mentored in after-school programs. He also had an 8-year-old son of his own. He graduated from both Wayne County Community College and the University of Michigan. He was about to receive his master’s in counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary.”

Bland has been speaking with many of Wheeler’s loved ones since his death, trying to help them find comfort.

“It is hard to make sense out of nonsense,” he remarked. “I think that it was not only tragic, it is not something I would say is within the will of God. Hopefully, we will be able to make sense of this as time goes by, but he was young — 34-years-old — and he was only beginning to make his impact on the world. … I think Kelvin is now immortalized more in death, so that he is bigger than he ever was. His love and memory never dies, and he is still with us in this way.”

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Detroit Police Homicide Unit at (313) 596-2260 or Crime Stoppers at (800) SPEAK-UP.