King County prosecutors on Wednesday charged former Seahawks offensive lineman Chad Wheeler with first-degree assault domestic violence, accusing him of beating his girlfriend and strangling her into unconsciousness at the couple’s Kent apartment on Friday night.
A few hours before Wheeler, 27, was criminally charged, the Seahawks announced they had waived him after he had played for them for parts of the past two seasons.
In addition to the first-degree assault charge, which is a Class A felony, Wheeler was also charged Wednesday with unlawful imprisonment domestic violence and resisting arrest, according to charging documents.
Wheeler, who posted $400,000 bail Tuesday, is to be arraigned Feb. 9 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, jail and court records show.
Court records indicate he is being represented by Bellevue defense attorneys Diego Vargas and Jon Fox. Vargas, reached by phone Wednesday, declined to comment on the criminal case.
Earlier Wednesday, Wheeler was placed on waivers by the Seahawks, a move that came after they released a statement noting he was a free agent and is “no longer with the team.”
Charging papers say it took three Kent police officers, using hand strikes and Tasers, to wrestle Wheeler into custody after breaking down the door to the apartment he shared with his girlfriend in the 22600 block of 91st Way South in Kent.
She suffered a broken arm and a dislocated elbow that will require surgery, along with injuries to her face, eye, throat and lungs, say the charges.
The Seattle Times does not generally identify victims of domestic violence.
According to the charges:
Wheeler and his girlfriend dated for six months and moved in together in November.
The girlfriend later told police that earlier Friday, Wheeler had texted her a photo of his shaved head, which worried her because his long hair was his “thing.” She also said he hadn’t been taking medication for his bi-polar disorder and had emotionally been going downhill that day.
On Friday night Wheeler was “in a dark place” and demanded his girlfriend bow to him. When she asked what he meant he grabbed her by the neck, threw her on the bed and strangled her before she lost consciousness.
At some point, she tried to crawl away and Wheeler yanked her arm.
Wheeler strangled her unconscious a second time and when the woman, whom doctors believe may have been punched in the face while unconscious, woke up she fled to the bathroom and texted friends, asking them to call 911 on her behalf because she worried Wheeler would overhear her on the phone with police.
After receiving several 911 calls just before 10 p.m. Friday, arriving Kent police officers heard screaming and forced entry into the apartment, where they found Wheeler and his girlfriend in the bathroom. He repeatedly yelled to her that he was sorry as police separated the two and took Wheeler into custody, say the charges.
Charging papers note that Wheeler is 6 feet 7 and 310 pounds, and the victim is 5-9 and 145 pounds.
Because Wheeler posted bail, prosecutors requested that he be placed on electronic-home detention and that his ankle monitor be equipped with GPS. Casey McNerthney, a spokesperson for Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said the issue of electronic-home detention will be addressed at Wheeler’s arraignment.
A few hours before the filing of charges, Wheeler took to Twitter to acknowledge his arrest and say he would no longer play football.
“It is time for me to walk away from football and get the help I need to never again pose a threat to another,” he wrote in one of three tweets. “I cannot express my sorrow or remorse enough. I am truly ashamed.”
Wheeler attributed the incident to “a manic episode” and wrote: “I apologize profusely for the turmoil that I have caused to my family, teammates, fans and those closest to me. The most important thing right now is that (the victim) gets the care she needs and I get help. Both are happening.”
The Seahawks on Monday released a statement saying they were aware of the situation and gathering more information. On Wednesday they released a statement saying he would not return in 2021.
“The Seahawks are saddened by the details emerging against Chad Wheeler and strongly condemn this act of domestic violence,” Wednesday’s statement read. “Our thoughts and support are with the victim. Chad is a free agent and no longer with the team.”
Wheeler had been set to become a restricted free agent in March, meaning the Seahawks would have had to tender an offer to keep him. But waiving him makes him immediately an ex-Seahawk.
The Seahawks had listed Wheeler on their roster, as they typically do with all free agents until the NFL’s new league year begins. But as of Wednesday morning, Wheeler was no longer listed on the roster.
An NFL spokesman confirmed to The Seattle Times that the league is reviewing the case under the league’s personal-conduct policy.
Wheeler played in five games for the Seahawks in 2020 as a reserve offensive tackle and had been with the team since October 2019, when he was signed to the practice squad after three years with the New York Giants.
The Seahawks’ statement included information for those who may be experiencing domestic-violence and/or mental-health issues.
“We encourage Chad to get the help he needs,” the team’s statement read.
Reporter Sara Jean Green contributed to this story.