OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Pastor Cornell Wheeler is counting his blessings. He’s out $8,000 in jewelry and $300 in cash but, as he puts it, he’s lived another day.
Sunday night after church he stopped for dinner at Lena’s Soul Food Café in Oakland where he seems to know everyone. As he got into his car he was robbed.
“I get one foot in, then this guy comes from across the street and approached me and he had a gun down like this with his hand on top of the gun and said ‘give me your money and give me your jewelry’,” Wheeler told KPIX 5 reporter Ann Notarangelo on Monday.
Other people witnessed the event but didn’t realize it was a robbery because the suspects were standing so close, as if they knew him.
Wheeler described his assailants. “Middle 30’s early 40’s these were not youngsters. We cannot blame them this time. These were some guys who knew what they were doing. Well skilled, not sloppy. So this lets me know they have done this many times before.”
But it was a first for him.. and his only thoughts were his family and friends and wondering if he’d get out alive.
While Pastor Wheeler says he is strong, he’s also cautious and asked us not to reveal the name of his church. He doesn’t want to make it easy for these guys to find him again.
He’s only 43 but talks about the old days.
“It’s not about being a hard working American citizen and putting some hours at a job to get honest pay to do what it is I need to do to take care of my family. It’s who can I take from now?”
Wheeler says he’s learned to pay better attention to even familiar surroundings. But what about all that jewelry he saves for weekends and special occasions?
“I’m going to tone it down some more. Tone it down. So it will be just bare knuckles. Bare hands,” he says.
This isn’t what he meant when he recently said he would take his ministry to the streets. But this traumatic event forced his hand. He says this is the city he grew up in and the city he still loves.
When we asked Pastor Wheeler if he’s thought about giving up, he replied, “I cannot. I cannot afford to. Then I would not be able to believe the word that I preach.”
Wheeler told us he wants the robbers caught. He says it’s important they get a grip on what they did and who they are.