Trooper Robert Lee "Pete" Peterson

Trooper Robert Lee "Pete" Peterson

North Carolina Highway Patrol, North Carolina

End of Watch Thursday, May 31, 1979

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Robert Lee "Pete" Peterson

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. Army veteran of the Vietnam War and 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. The North Carolina Department of Transportation also dedicated a portion of U.S. 221 in Rutherford County in honor of Trooper Peterson.


  • Age 37
  • Tour 9 years
  • Badge G-235
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Rifle; .30-.06
  • Offender Executed in 1984


Most Recent Reflection

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Pete, I was a member of the 54 th patrol class. I remember going to the barber shop with all the other cadets and telling the barber to take a little off the sides and leaving the top full. You looked at me with your white wall hair and said, What did you say Ratliff, I replied, I want a haircut like yours Trooper Peterson. You instilled a motivation in all of us better than the Army basic training and my also tour of duty in Vietnam. As a Christian , I am looking forward to running some sprints around Heaven with you, even if I am on the fat man squad. God bless you Trooper Pete Peterson. Ernie Ratliff class of 54.

Master Trooper
NCSHP. E-454; B-339

July 25, 2020

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