WINCHESTER — When Deborah Collins and her husband Timothy Collins heard a loud bang outside their North Kent Street home about 10:35 p.m. on Tuesday, they thought it might be fireworks until Timothy Collins saw Lorenzo Coles Wheeler lying on his stomach in front of a parked car at 312 N. Kent St.
Deborah Collins said she ran to Wheeler. When she realized he’d been shot, she ran back to her home to get her phone and called 911 at 10:38 p.m. Collins said Wheeler was next to the driver’s side wheel of a Chevrolet V6.
According to Collins, Wheeler was gasping for his breath and told her he was OK, but he was bleeding and clearly in pain. Collins said she waved away passing cars until police arrived about 10:40 p.m.
“I didn’t want that man to get hit,” she said. “I tried to do everything I could to keep the cars away from him.”
Police said Wheeler, 30, who lived in Winchester, later died at Winchester Medical Center. The shooter remained at large on Wednesday evening.
Winchester Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Amanda R. Behan said Wheeler was shot once in the stomach and at least one shell casing was found at the scene, but she was unsure of the caliber. She said narcotics were also found at the scene but was uncertain if the shooting was drug-related. Collins said she saw about 20 pills on the street near Wheeler.
While police haven’t determined the motive for the shooting, Behan said it isn’t believed to be a random killing. She said police, including lead investigator Detective Marti Ivins, are attempting to determine what Wheeler was doing in the area. His rental car was found near where he was shot.
Resident Bryce White, the owner of the Chevrolet, also thought the shot was fireworks. She said she was in her backyard with a friend when she heard a bang and didn’t hear any arguing or screaming before the shot.
“Our windows are super thin so I hear everything that’s going on outside,” she said. “But we didn’t hear anything unusual.”
Wheeler and his wife Kristine moved to Winchester from Crewe in Stafford County a few years ago, according to Eric Williams, who said he and Lorenzo Wheeler had been friends since 2015. Wheeler was convicted of malicious wounding in Stafford County in 2012 and participating in a criminal gang act in 2013. He also had a pending assault and battery charge in Winchester General District Court for an incident on Oct. 26.
Williams described Wheeler as kindhearted and a good friend who loaned him money when he needed it and helped friends move on short notice. Wheeler had spoken about getting older and needing to avoid trouble, said Williams, who added that all people are flawed and Wheeler shouldn’t be judged solely by his criminal history.
“It’s tragic how he died,” Williams said. “Unfortunately sometimes people get caught up in some of the damndest things.”