By Logan Smith

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – Scott Mathews and his girlfriend wanted to protect their dogs from the fireworks being set off by children on the 4th of July, 2019.

Jaharie Wheeler wanted to protect his family.

The argument between the two families reached its climax with the two men fighting in the courtyard of their Aurora apartment complex.

Mathews pulled out a handgun and shot Wheeler once in the chest. Wheeler died at a hospital.

Wednesday, an Arapahoe County District Court judge sentenced Mathews to 37 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Mathews was a corrections officer for the DOC at the time of the fatal confrontation.

“Bringing a gun to an argument can lead to tragic consequences, and that is the case here,” said 18th Judicial 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.”

Scott Mathews (credit: Aurora Police)

According to the arrest affidavit in the case, Mathews, then 27, and Katherine O’Neal exited their second floor apartment at the Greensview Apartment Complex, 16498 East Alameda Place, the evening of Independence Day with their dogs.

They began yelling at neighbors who were setting off fireworks when the animals became too upset to relieve themselves.

Shamira Cotton, Wheeler’s girlfriend, came to the defense of her daughter and stepson, two of the children among the group of neighbors who were setting off the fireworks.

Cotton, according to the affidavit, told investigators that Mathews drew a handgun from his right hip during their argument and pointed it at her chest, yelling profanity. He ultimately re-holstered it, but head-butted her. Cotton retaliated by hitting Mathews in the face with her plastic drink cup.

Wheeler, unarmed, then emerged from his apartment, confronted Mathews about the blood on Cotton’s face, and a physical struggle with Matthews ensued.

Investigators found many witnesses to the argument, including one neighbor who recorded the fight on her cell phone. In the video, Wheeler punched Mathews in the face with his right fist. Mathews then fired his gun while staggering backwards. Wheeler retreated and fell to the grass.

He was 37 years old.

Jaharie Wheeler (credit: Paradise Memorial Funeral Home obituary)

Officers were called to the complex just before 10:30 p.m.

Mathews complied with officer’s demands, according to the affidavit, and said “I shot him” while lying on the ground. He was also bleeding from the forehead, per officers.

Mathews was arrested the following day.

The DOC suspended Mathews that day after from his position at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility.

O’Neal, Mathews’s girlfriend, also worked at that time for the Department of Corrections. O’Neal admitted to investigators to drawing her own handgun during the mens’ argument. She said she did not point it at anyone.

A jury found Mathews guilty of 2nd Degree Murder, Felony Menacing with a Deadly Weapon, and 3rd Degree Assault last December.

Mathews faced a maximum of 48 years for the murder conviction alone.

“This tragic murder was completely devastating to Jaharie Wheeler’s family, who never should have lost him that night,” said Assistant District Attorney Tom Byrnes, who prosecuted the trial with Deputy District Attorney Justin Friedberg. “After what started as an argument over fireworks, he was killed in front of his fiancé and children for standing up to defend them.”



Logan Smith