Off-duty cop questioned in fatal assault of neighbor

An off-duty cop is being questioned by police after a neighborhood brawl turned deadly on Labor Day. According to investigators, the officer killed the neighbor with a punch to the head during a fist fight in the backyard.

The brother of 41-year-old Wayne Wheeler of Detroit says he doesn't know exactly what happened on Whitcomb. All he knows is that Monday morning, his brother, Wayne, was alive but Tuesday morning, he was dead. Now, he's wondering why violence was the answer.

"I think there should've been a better way to resolve this without violence," Benson Wheeler says. "Wayne was a loving spirit and a friendly guy."

Detroit police say around 8:00 p.m. on Labor Day, an off-duty Lathrup Village police officer was at his home on the city's west side. The 51-year-old was barbecuing when police say Wheeler hopped the fence and the two began arguing, then physically fighting. Wheeler was hit in the head and died in the backyard.

A neighbor, who asked not to be identified said the two had feuded for some time. She said hey've heard the two arguing constantly and even swearing at each other. What they don't know, is what started Monday's argument.

"It was an ongoing situation, never thought anyone would get killed by it," the neighbor said."I don't know what could've escalated it this time but he didn't deserve to die."

As the manner and cause of Wheeler's death has not yet been determined, questions linger. There were no weapons found at the scene and police say they're still investigating if it was the punch or a fall that killed Wheeler.

"If you're an officer of the law, it had to be a better way. There were no guns involved, no knives involved. You mean to tell me there wasn't a better way to do this?" Benson wonders.

The family of the officer would not comment on Tuesday. The Chief of Lathrup Village Police says the officer has been with Lathrup for six years and is a veteran of the force with no major disciplinary problems.

Detroit police say the officer is fully cooperating and is on paid administrative leave. He has not been charged and the investigation is ongoing.

"It's one of the toughest things we've ever been through but together and with the prayers of friends and family, we're going to be okay," Benson said.