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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

Cause: Gunfire

Weapon: Rifle; .30-.06

Offender: Executed in 1984

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Trooper Robert Peterson, Deputy Millard Messersmith, and Deputy Roy Huskey were shot and killed after responding to a domestic dispute between a man and his teenager daughter in Rutherford County. Deputy 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 Deputy Huskey failed to check in Deputy Messersmith responded to the scene. As he pulled into the driveway he saw Deputy 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 had served with the agency for 9 years, and was the longest-assigned physical training instructor in the North Carolina Highway Patrol Training Center history. He was survived by his sister.

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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

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

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I was a deputy with the Randolph Co. Sheriff's Department on patrol the night of May 31, 1979 when we received a radio transmission of a statewide BOLO for the suspect wanted in the slaying of 3 law enforcement officers in Rutherford County. One of the deputies had once lived in our county and I knew several troopers who were personally acquainted with Trooper Peterson. If memory serves me correctly, the shooter had served time years before for slaying an officer in New Mexico. Justice was finally served when he was executed, but how tragic that it took the lives of 4 law enforcement officers to bring this about. May they all rest in peace and God bless for service rendered and a job well done.

Joe Farlow, Police Chief (Retired)
Randleman Police Department
February 12, 2015


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