Aurora man shot dead in July 4 fireworks dispute identified as Jaharie Wheeler; state prison officer is suspected shooter

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AURORA | The man shot to death July 4 following a disagreement over fireworks at an Aurora apartment complex has been identified as Jaharie Wheeler, 36, according to the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office. 

Wheeler died after being shot in the chest, and his death has been ruled a homicide, according to Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Kelly Lear. He died shortly after 11 p.m. at the Aurora South Medical Center. 

Aurora police responded to the Greensview apartment complex at 16498 E. Alameda Pl. at about 10:30 p.m. after receiving multiple reports of a shooting in the area, according to police. First responders found Wheeler with a gunshot wound in the courtyard of the complex.

Witnesses later told police Wheeler had gotten into a fight with Scott Mathews, 26, after Mathews had head-butted and pointed a handgun at Wheeler’s girlfriend, 38-year-old Shamira Cotton, in the courtyard. Mathews, an officer with the state Department of Corrections, had gotten into a shouting match with Cotton moments before the shooting due to a disagreement over lighting fireworks in the area, according to an arrest affidavit filed against Matthews.

Katherine O’Neal, 27, told police she and Mathews had gotten into a verbal argument with Cotton and Wheeler because they were concerned their dogs would become anxious and frightened by fireworks being set off in the area. Cotton and Wheeler’s children, ages 9 and 14, were lighting fireworks in the courtyard after the family returned from attempting to watch the city’s Fourth of July Spectacular at the Aurora municipal center, according to the affidavit. They said bad weather was among reasons they didn’t stay for the Aurora display.

O’Neal, who is also a Department of Corrections employee, told police she also drew her handgun during the altercation, but never pointed her weapon toward anyone.

Cell phone video footage of the incident showed Wheeler pushing Mathews and punching him in the head, according to the arrest document. Mathews can then be seen drawing a semi-automatic handgun and shooting Wheeler once in the chest. 

Mathews then attempted to rendered aid to Wheeler, but witnesses told him to back away, according to the affidavit. 

Police arrested Mathews the following day.

Mathews is currently being held at the Arapahoe County Detention Center on a $100,000 bond, according to county records. He is scheduled to appear next in Arapahoe County District Court at 3 p.m. on Sept. 13.