Local News

Friend of man involved in standoff speaks out

SPOKANE, Wash. - A man involved in a standoff with law enforcement Tuesday night on North Division in Spokane posted a series of Facebook videos in the days leading up to the event.

One of James Wheatley's friends is speaking out, and says there's much more to this story, and that his friend needs help.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, a WSP trooper observed a dark-colored pickup truck driving erratically and speeding near milepost 171 on southbound US 395.

WSP later identified the driver as 38-year-old James Wheatley.

The trooper signaled for Wheatley to pull over, but he did not, instead leading troopers on a chase.

SCSO helped by deploying spikes. Wheatley hit them, but kept going.

His truck finally stopped at Division and Lyons, but Wheatley then refused to get out of the car, sparking a standoff with police.

Shortly before 10:00 p.m., officers took him into custody.

In the 48 hours leading to James Wheatley's run in with law enforcement, his Facebook page sheds a light into his mental state. A friend who has known him for more than a decade said this isn't the James he knows.

Some of the Facebook videos are disturbing.

The videos started on April 17th around 3 a.m.

Over the next few hours, James continues to post these videos, and his mental state seems to deteriorate.

"His posts on Facebook have just been crazy," said Michael Olson, who became friends with Wheatley in 2007 while working at the same company. "I mean it's somebody who's not in the same medical condition as the guy I've always known."

Michael Olson said his friend is a veteran who served tours in Korea, Japan, and Thailand with the Airforce.

According to Olson, James has been struggling with anxiety, depression, back problems, blood pressure, and COPD. Michael explained James is prescribed antidepressants and muscle relaxants, but also self-medicates with marijuana.

"I just noticed in the last couple months where his mood has really changed," he said.

Michael said James recently went to the Chewelah ER, after waking up and feeling like he was paralyzed.

"He was posting about it on Facebook, how he was really glad he finally found somebody that was looking into it, they kept him there for 3 or 4 nights and then they let him loose," Olson explained. "He's been talking about the struggle with the VA, he was supposed to get a referral to see a psychiatrist and it never happened."

Michael said he felt torn when he realized it was his friend who was in a stand off with law enforcement on Tuesday night.

"I know the public is going to view at a criminal action, it's just him running from the law," he said, "but I guess unless somebody is really up inside his head knowing what's going on , it's not the same person, it's just not Jimmy."

He hopes Wheatley will get the medical help he needs, and the people who don't know him will realize there's another side to this story.

"I guess I'd ask them to step back, try to put themselves in his shoes, somebody who's served this country," he said.

Wheatley was briefly seen in court on Wednesday, but his appearance was delayed until Thursday.

Wheatley is charged with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, third degree assault, driving while under the influence, driving with a suspended license, and reckless driving.

Michael picked up Wheatley's two dogs from his Loon Lake home and is now looking for help taking care of the dogs while his friend is unable to look after them.