Police Overkill: The Shooting of Medical-Marijuana Dealer John Wheelihan

If two unnamed Tempe police officers are to be believed, John Wheelihan pointed a scoped rifle at them just before they shot him three times at his home in 2013.

No matter that Wheelihan's weapon turned out to be a pellet gun: It might have looked deadly enough in the heat of the moment.

The bigger question is why Tempe and Arizona State University police felt the need to go all-out against a marijuana dealer who wasn't a threat to society. Wheelihan, who died from the gunshot wounds, was a professional photographer and state-licensed medical-marijuana caregiver who ran a weed-delivery service for patients in east Tempe. Family members say he's never been violent.

Tempe cops have yet to close out their report on the tragic incident, and still have supplemental reports to add. At New Times' request, the agency released the bulk of the report publicly for the first time last week.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern