FL - Deputy Wayne Koester, 34, shot to death, Lake County, 9 Feb 2005
Suspect's Girlfriend Describes Ambush Of Deputies
Wheeler Arrested In Hospital Bed
POSTED: 11:09 a.m. EST February 11, 2005
UPDATED: 4:20 p.m. EST February 12, 2005
Story by WESH.com
TAVARES, Fla. -- The woman whose call to 911 brought deputies to the Lake County ambush scene on Wednesday was in court Friday morning fighting for custody of her two children.
On Friday, Sara Heckerman, 24, temporarily lost custody of the two children she shares with suspect Jason Wheeler (pictured, right), the man suspected of killing one deputy and injuring two others, WESH NewsChannel 2 reported.
A Lake County judge awarded custody of Jason Jr., 1, and Ivy, 5, to Wheeler's mother, a Broward County corrections officer. Heckerman will have visitation rights.
"They want to give Sara time to recover from her ordeal of what she's been through, which is a lot," said Linda Souvenir, Heckerman's mother.
In an exclusive interview with NewsChannel 2, Heckerman recalled the horrific events that occurred on Wednesday. She said she believes one of the deputies made a fatal mistake.
The day before deputies approached Wheeler's home, Heckerman left the house with her two kids and fled 40 miles. She returned alone the day of the shootout to get some clothes.
"I went back out to the house, and I found all of his guns," she said.
The day before, she said her boyfriend tortured her for two hours. Thinking ahead, she called the sheriff's office to come get Wheeler before he hurt someone else.
"I left the back door open to our house so that they could get in. I left the door to the camper open so that they could get to Jason without having to open the door and make any noise. I told them on the phone not to turn on their sirens because it would wake him up and then if he got up and knew they were coming, that they were going to have to fight him," Heckerman said.
Heckerman called police from a friend's home. She rode to Wheeler's home in the car of Deputy Bill Crotty, the first car to arrive on the scene.
"The third cop that came up the road turned his sirens on. Officer Crotty went over and told him to shut it back off, but it's too late. I know that's what woke Jason up," she said.
Deputy Wayne Koester and Deputy Tom McKane were the first to go to Wheeler's home to survey the situation.
"I saw my dog, and I knew by the way she was acting that Jason was somewhere close with a gun because she doesn't like guns and she doesn't like Jason. I told them we needed to leave because somebody was going to die, and I just got it out of my mouth, and gunshots went out. I watched the officer that died (Koester) die right in front of me. I told them we needed to get out of there or we were all going to die. I was screaming," she said.
Heckerman said she climbed under one of the patrol cars during the gunfight. Heckerman believes if sirens were never turned on, things may have turned out differently.
The Lake County sheriff defended his deputies' actions on Friday.
"The Sheriff's Office is not prepared to debate that. Certainly not now while the FDLE investigation is not concluded, and certainly not with people who are making these allegations who have no background in law enforcement whatsoever," said Sheriff Chris Daniels.
Heckerman said she didn't call 911 to send Wheeler to jail, but to get him the help he needed.
Crotty was released from the hospital Friday morning.
Wheeler, 29, allegedly opened fire on the three officers, killing Deputy Wayne Koester.
McKane was released from hospital Wednesday night.
Wheeler remains in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center. He was shot at least three times during his capture, which followed a day-long manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officials from 20 agencies. The Lake County Sheriff's Department arrested Wheeler on Friday, but he has not yet been formally charged.
Just when I think that I have seen the most depraved things a human can do to another human, somebody posts a new story...........
Why is it that when a custodial parent fails to provide for a child it is called neglect and is a criminal matter. But when a non custodial parent fails to provide it is called failure to support and is a civil matter?
"Just when the caterpillar thought its world was over, it became a butterfly" ~ Michelle Knight