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Trooper Robert L. North Carolina Highway Patrol, North Carolina


Robert L. "Pete" Peterson

North Carolina Highway Patrol, North Carolina

End of Watch: Thursday, May 31, 1979

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 37

Tour: 9 years

Badge # G-235

Military veteran

Cause: Gunfire

Weapon: Rifle; .30-.06

Offender: Executed in 1984

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Trooper Robert Peterson, Deputy Sheriff Millard Messersmith, and Captain Roy Huskey were shot and killed after responding to a domestic dispute between a man and his teenager daughter in Rutherford County.

Captain Huskey was the first officer dispatched to the scene and was shot in the head by the suspect as he exited his patrol car. When Captain Huskey failed to check in Deputy Messersmith responded to the scene. As he pulled into the driveway he saw Captain Huskey laying next to the patrol car, and he began to back out of the driveway.

The suspect opened fire on Deputy Messersmith as he backed out of the driveway, striking him in the head. A neighbor called the sheriff's office to report that two deputies had been shot. Trooper Peterson heard garbled radio traffic, and although couldn't make out the transmissions, determined something was wrong and began to head toward Rutherfordton. As he drove into town the suspect sped by him.

Trooper Peterson turned around and attempted to stop the car, thinking it was a speeding vehicle and not knowing the suspect had just murdered two deputies. Trooper Peterson's last transmission was that the suspect was running into the woods. Trooper Peterson was found suffering a from a gunshot wound to the head. His service revolver had been fired once. The suspect was apprehended, convicted of capital murder, and executed in 1984.

Trooper Peterson was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War. He had served with the North Carolina Highway Patrol for nine years. He was survived by his sister.

In 2016, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol named the physical training field and running track at the agency's training center in Raleigh as "Peterson Field" in honor of Trooper Peterson's legacy as the agency's most famous physical training instructor and in honor of his service.

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Related Line of Duty Deaths

Deputy Sheriff Millard Owen Messersmith
Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, North Carolina
End of Watch: Thursday, May 31, 1979
Cause: Gunfire

Captain Roy Huskey
Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, North Carolina
End of Watch: Thursday, May 31, 1979
Cause: Gunfire

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Most Recent Reflection

Pete was a hell of a man and an even better trooper. He and Frank Birch led us through the last Patrol School at UNC in Chapel Hill so many years ago. God rest Pete, "Go To The House"

Tom Banks
Former member of the NCSHP C-658
August 5, 2016


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