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Trooper Robert L. North Carolina Highway Patrol, North Carolina

Trooper

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

Incident Date: 5/31/1979

Weapon: Rifle; .30-.06

Suspect: 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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Most Recent Reflection

I have just completed a book (Badge Bullets & Blood) and dedicated it to Pete and Ed Lowery who was also in my patrol school (60th) 1975. When I was shot in October '75 Pete showed up at the hospital the first afternoon and sat at my bedside all night. I woke up off and on and knowing he was at my side was like the hand of God was sent to watch over me. There was a side of Pete I never expected to see or hear after his opening speech on our first day at school. A great man and a greater legend never to be forgotten.

Harry Stegall Former H-238
NCSHP
January 18, 2014

 

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