A Utah man was charged earlier this week in federal court after police allegedly found him driving drunk with several firearms in his vehicle, apparently en route to kill President Donald Trump.
Price resident William Scott Wheeler, 56, was implicated Wednesday in a complaint — signed by Secret Service Agent Marina Thomas — that was unsealed in Utah’s U.S. District Court. Wheeler, who has felony convictions, has been charged with one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a restricted person.
A Carbon County Sheriff’s Office deputy pulled Wheeler over about 11:20 p.m. on Aug. 25 on an entry ramp to U.S. 191, according to court documents, because Wheeler had a blanket draped over the hood of his pickup, blocking the headlights.
During the traffic stop, Deputy William Marinoni looked through an open window in Wheeler’s truck and saw several guns. A shotgun, two pistols, a revolver and two long guns and ammunition were later found in the pickup.
Deputies found out about the alleged conspiracy after Wheeler didn’t answer Marinoni’s question about why he had the guns. The silence prompted Marinoni to ask if Wheeler was OK, and Wheeler allegedly confessed that he wasn’t. “He thought he would have made it further without being arrested,” the deputy said.
Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for Utah’s U.S. attorney’s office, said Wheeler lives in Price and didn’t make it out of city before he was arrested.
Marinoni prodded and asked Wheeler to explain why he thought he would be arrested. Wheeler, the court documents state, told the deputy he’d sent “messages” to the White House and suspected the Secret Service would be looking for him.
“They need to fix the problem, or I’m going to fix the problem,” Wheeler allegedly told Marinoni later, when the deputy asked him again why he had the guns.
Wheeler also told Marinoni he’d imbibed a pint of liquor over the course of four or five hours before driving. After a field sobriety test, when Marinoni told Wheeler he was too drunk to be driving, Wheeler reportedly responded by saying, “I think I’m going to kill the president.” The complaint says Wheeler continued talking about killing the president throughout the booking process.
Because Wheeler has been convicted of felonies — vehicle theft in 1984 and theft in 1989 — and the firearms were purchased outside of Utah and apparently brought into the state, Wheeler was charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a restricted person.
Rydalch said it’s “always possible" that Wheeler could be charged with additional offenses when he goes in front of a grand jury.
She declined to comment on the legitimacy of the alleged assassination plot, given Wheeler’s apparent intoxication, but she said, “We thought the totality of the case, the fact that someone had six guns, and the fact that a Secret Service agent signed the complaint tells you that it’s a case we do take seriously.”
Wheeler’s attorney, A. Chelsea Koch, didn’t immediately respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment Thursday afternoon.
If convicted as currently charged, Wheeler could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner said Wheeler must remain in custody until the case is resolved. He is being held at the Tooele County jail, according to records.
Another Utah man, 33-year-old Travis Luke Dominguez, was charged in January in federal court with making death threats against Trump. Dominguez allegedly threatened to kill Trump and police who attempted to stop him during Trump’s visit to Utah on Dec. 4, 2017.
Dominguez has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 9, according to court documents.
Correction: 3:31 p.m., Sept. 7, 2018 • A previous version of this story misstated the roadway where William Wheeler was pulled over.