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Aurora man found guilty of fatally shooting neighbor in argument over fireworks

Shooting occurred on July 4, 2019
Former Colorado prison guard pleads not guilty in shooting
Posted at 11:07 AM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 20:49:06-05

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — An Aurora man accused of fatally shooting his neighbor in an argument over fireworks was found guilty of second-degree murder on Thursday.

The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office said a jury had returned guilty verdicts against Scott Alan Mathews Jr., 29, on Thursday for killing Jaharie Wheeler, 38, in 2019. He was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree assault and felony menacing with a deadly weapon.

Scott Alan Mathews Jr.

The charges stemmed from an incident on July 4, 2019. At the time, Mathews was an off-duty Department of Corrections officer. He started working for the Department of Corrections in October 2015 and was working as a corrections officer at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility, the agency said.

That evening, Mathews and his girlfriend were walking their dogs in the courtyard of the Greensview Apartments. The couple confronted their neighbors — including two children who were then 14 and 9 years old — about setting off fireworks and scaring their dogs. The argument escalated and Mathews unholstered his personal handgun, pointed it at Wheeler’s fiancé and headbutted her, the district attorney's office said.

At that point, Wheeler came out into the courtyard to defend his family. Wheeler allegedly punched Mathews in the face, at which point the suspect drew his handgun from his holster, according to Mathew's arrest affidavit.

Mathews then shot Wheeler, who was unarmed, in the chest, the district attorney's office said.

Wheeler was pronounced deceased at a nearby hospital that evening.

Mathews was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder.

In October 2019, Mathews pleaded not guilty.

“Bringing a gun to an argument can lead to tragic consequences, and that is the case here,” said District Attorney John Kellner. “The defendant made a horrible decision, and he will pay the consequences. The family of Mr. Wheeler will live with the result of that horrible decision for the rest of their lives.”

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 27, 2022. He will likely face between 16 and 48 years in prison.