Family, Friends & Fellow Officers Remember...

Trooper Robert Lee "Pete" Peterson

North Carolina Highway Patrol, North Carolina

End of Watch Thursday, May 31, 1979

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Reflections for Trooper Robert Lee "Pete" Peterson

I had the honor of knowing Pete as a special friend during his years at the Institute of Government. I was a secretary at the Institute of Government while he lived there and conducted PT training for the Basic Patrol School. Pete was truly a special person who took his career seriously. Pete gained the utmost respect of every cadet who came through Basic Patrol School. I had the honor of doing some hand stitchwork work on some of Pete's personal shirts. He was ever so grateful. We pulled pranks on each other, played softball, and shared many fun times. He was one of a kind. I think of Pete often and the impact he had on so many North Carolina State Troopers. I continue to miss him and always will.

Linda McVey
March 2008

Linda McVey

March 4, 2008

I had the honor of knowing Pete as a special friend during his years at the Institute of Government. I was a secretary at the Institute of Government while he lived there and conducted PT training for the Basic Patrol School. Pete was truly a special person who took his career seriously. Pete gained the utmost respect of every cadet who came through Basic Patrol School. I had the honor of doing some hand stitchwork work on some of Pete's personal shirts. He was ever so grateful. We pulled pranks on each other, played softball, and shared many fun times. He was one of a kind. I think of Pete often and the impact he had on so many North Carolina State Troopers. I continue to miss him and always will.

Linda McVey
March 2008

Linda McVey

March 4, 2008

"The Badge"

He starts his shift each day
To respond to calls unknown.
He drives a marked patrol car.
A police officer he is known.

He's paid by the citizens' taxes
To make it safe on the streets.
But he usually has a second job
'Cause a waitress has his salary beat.

Now he doesn't know a holiday
'Cause he works all year round.
And when Thanksgiving and Christmas finally arrive
At his home he cannot be found.

He's cursed and assaulted often,
The one whos blood runs blue.
He seldom ever gets a thanks,
To some he's just a fool.

His friends are always other cops
'Cause people just don't understand
That underneath his badge and gun,
He's just another man.

He knows there might not be a tomorrow
In this world of drugs and crime.
And he gets so mad at the court system
'Cause the crooks don't get any time.

And each day when he leaves for work,
He prays to God above.
Please bring me home after my shift
So I can see the ones I love.

But tonight he stops a speeding car,
He's alone down this ole' highway.
It's just a little traffic infraction.
He does it everyday.

Well, he walks up to the driver's window,
And his badge is shining bright.
He asked the guy for a driver's license,
When a shot rang through the night.

Yes, the bullet hit its mark,
Striking the officer in the chest.
But the Department's budget didn't buy
Each officer a bullet-proof vest.

So he lay on the ground bleeding.
His blood wasn't blue - His blood was red.
And briefly he thought of his loved ones
'Cause in a moment the officer was dead.

In the news they told the story
Of how this officer had died.
And some who listened cared less,
But those who loved him cried.

Well, they buried him in uniform
With his badge pinned on his chest.
He even had his revolver,
He died doing his best.

Written By:
David L. Bell
Richland County Sheriff's Department
Columbia, South Carolina
Used with Special Permission of the Author
Copyright © 1999 - All Rights Reserved
and may not be duplicated without permission

Investigator David L Bell
Richland County Sheriff's Dept., Columbia, SC

December 27, 2007

It was said if ever there was an "All American Trooper" it was Pete. Myself and 33 other members were Pete's first PT class in 1972. When we graduated he told us he knew exactly how far physically he could push a man. He took us to the edge. Little did we know then, that every second spent with him would be so beneficial in the years to come. Pete, its been 27 years since you left us, but rest assured, not a day goes by that you are not remembered. Each member of the 52nd Basic Patrol School took a part of you when we left school in October 1972, and you took a part of us when you left us in May 1979. Thanks Pete.

Lieutenant Johnny Surles, Retired
North Carolina Highway Patrol

October 15, 2006

I knew Pete when he was assigned to the Highway Patrol basic school at the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill. I worked part-time at the Institute and was attending law school at UNC. Pete and I became friends. He was a professional and the epitome of a dedicated highway patrolman. The N.C. Highway Patrol suffered a great loss when Pete was killed in the line of duty.

Richard Boner, Superior Court Judge
Friend of Pete Peterson

May 10, 2006

The first time I ever saw Pete Peterson, he strutted down the hall near my secretarial desk at the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was a hot and humid August day; the air conditioner had blown out and all the windows were open, letting in a suffocating North Carolina breeze.

Still, Pete strutted, not a drop of perspiration staining his silver-grey Highway Patrol shirt. There was a self assurance about Pete that inspired respect, not just due to his lack of perspiration while the rest of us were sweltering. Later, I learned that Pete had a dorm room at the Institute. He took a few showers a day during this weather! After his seven mile morning run, shower and shave, he dressed in all of his Highway Patrol finery. On his way to work with the cadets, he would visit and flirt with the secretaries during our breaks. We all felt very safe with Pete around.

Pete’s Highway Patrol finery included black leather shoes shined to a mirror finish and an array of what I teased him was jewelry: a polished black leather belt which held shiny handcuffs and his other work accessories. Pete smiled when I teased him about the ‘jewelry,’ but I always knew and respected that the sparkling, well cared for tools of his trade were deadly serious. One day, he described each one and its use to me.

Pete and I didn’t go out until I had seen him strutting down the hall for about ten months. My womanly nature was very flattered that he teased me about wearing a short skirt one day and a long one the next. He would tease in an ironic, humorous tone of voice that was extremely endearing! He also called me ‘girl’ in that same teasing tone. ‘Girl’ from his lips sounded heavenly! This was a surprise to me. I considered myself a radical feminist. I was a young woman who protested the Vietnam War in high school, was thrilled to attend Outward Bound survival school in Minnesota, rebuilt my Volkswagon bug engine, lived alone and worked hard to pay my rent and college tuition. Most men who called me ‘girl’ or ‘sugar’ were quickly reminded that I was a woman and considered endearments and labels patronizing and degrading. I guess these days, you’d say I had an attitude!

It was relaxing and fun to go out with Pete. My friends gave me a hard time, saying he did not have a Ph.D. and he was a chauvinist. My friends were wrong. Pete was a worldly wise man, experienced, genuine and intelligent. He studied constantly. He challenged himself and everyone he met daily. He always looked beyond the surface to see to the heart of a matter. He taught his lessons with intelligence, respect, insight, and love. He cared deeply about the Highway Patrol cadets he worked with. He did his best to challenge and teach the cadets so they would be ready for the ultimate demanding profession.

In being friends with Pete, we accepted our differences, joked about them, and shared our individual realities. He never questioned why I was a vegetarian and didn’t eat refined white sugar. He knew I’d make his sweet iced tea with white sugar, just the way he liked it.

For our first ‘date,’ he invited me to watch television one night with him in the Institute lounge. It was sort of his living room. I wore a smocked peasant blouse and jeans. He looked taken aback at my outfit. I worried that he thought it made me look fat. He silently pondered for a few minutes and then asked me why I was wearing a ‘hatching jacket.’ My reply was, ”What in the world is a hatching jacket?” Turns out it’s a mountain term for a maternity shirt!

He’d pick me up in his Corvette and we’d drive to Pizza Hut. Our talk was low key. Pete liked Olivia Newton John. I teased him that she had proclaimed her bisexuality! He also liked psychology and backpacking, two loves we shared. We could sit for hours over iced tea and pizza and talk about backpacking at Linville Gorge. Pete told me about the Ramp Festival in the mountains and brought me a bag of the smelly roots. We traded psychology books.

The last time I saw Pete was outside the office where I worked at N.C. Memorial Hospital. I had transferred to the hospital and Pete was heading to the Outer Banks for the summer. He took time to come over to the hospital and say good-bye. He was that breed of gentleman.

We had lunch in the hospital cafeteria amid obvious stares at Pete in his Highway Patrol uniform. I guess the doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers wondered if I was a felon! Pete paid for our lunch and we settled down for the usual fun and relaxed conversation. We ignored the stares while we talked and I enjoyed his company, his masculine warmth, and his closeness. After lunch, I hugged him good-bye in the hallway, not knowing I would never see him again.

God bless you, Pete. Thank you for the fun conversations.
I thank you and think of you whenever I see a Highway Patrol vehicle.
I thank all Highway Patrol officers for your dedication, strength, insight, intelligence, and integrity.
God bless you all.

Mary Buchanan Davis-Joines, North Carolina resident until 1982.
Member, Virginia massage therapy strike team, providing seated massage for first responders working disaster scenes.

Mary Joines

April 15, 2006

As I was going through training in Chapel Hill, NC, Pete Peterson was my drill instructor.

One morning at 5am, before we started running the track, he said” Whoever catches me before I get around the track can take tomorrow off and sleep in”. He had about 20 yards head start but all 32 cadets took off after him. I remember reaching out and grabbing him on the back home stretch and he laughed and said “not you Thornburg, you need to keep running”.

I was really upset because I wanted that sleep in time. I was 6’3” and weighed 235 lbs but needed to lose down to 198 lbs before I could graduate. He pushed me to the limit because he cared enough and knew what I was going to face upon graduation. I lost the weight and we laughed about it later.

Our Highway Patrol colors were black and silver and many times he would say, he was black and silver through out.

During my tour I had to use what he taught me many times to stay alive. A dedicated Trooper and credit to North Carolina Highway Patrol. I thank him to this day and truly miss him.

Eddie Thornburg
Charlotte, NC
(Former B-457 NCSHP)

Trooper Eddie Thornburg
North Carolina Highway Partol

December 27, 2005

I stop by this website often after the death of two dear friends with the NCSHP (Troopers Calvin Taylor E.O.W. October 3, 2001 and Anthony Cogdill E.O.W. May 30, 2003).

We all grieve over the lives lost in the line of duty. I hope you can find some comfort knowing that there are countless prayers that go out for your family.

These are senseless tragedies that never seem to stop. God Bless the men and women who continue to serve their communities in our great Nation.

...Gone, but never Forgotten....

Marti (EMT-Paramedic)
Haywood Co EMS (NC)

April 5, 2004

At the time of Trp. Peterson's death, I was a Police Officer with the Forest City, NC Police Dept. I was working the second shift at the time of the incident and remember it very well. There was a massive manhunt for the suspect and he was captured alive and later excuted. It was a very sad day in my Law Enforcement career as three of my brother officers were killed on this day.

Pete Peterson was an outstanding Trooper and a fine person, I will always remember him.

Rest in peace my brother,

Ken Hunsucker
Master Police Officer
Gaston County Police Dept.
Gastonia, NC

Master Police Officer Ken Hunsucker
Gaston County, NC Police Dept.

December 18, 2003

"It is not the critic who counts,
Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,
who strives valiantly,
who errs and comes short again and again because there is
no effort without error and shortcomings,
who knows the great devotion,
who spends himself in a worth cause,
who at best knows in the end the high achievement of
triumph and
who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place
shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know
neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

In memory of Deputies Messersmith and Huskey and Trooper Peterson ... Gone but not forgotten.
May 31, 2003


Rest in peace Trooper Peterson. You seved with honor and bravery. Would be an honor to work with you.

Inv. Michael Walker
Tallahassee Police Department

I was in high school in the neighboring Buncombe County, when this terrible event occurred. I watched the reports on the local news WLOS-13. As a teenage aspiring lawman, I was so sickened and mad. Everyone in Western NC was stunned and shocked that 3 lawmen were killed by one drunken bum, an unemployed textile worker, a Korean War Army sniper, who liked to beat on his teenage daughter. This was the worst day in NC law enforcement history...three fine officers senselessly assasinated for just doing their sowrn duty to protect and serve.

The coward who did this didn't even have the courage to face the officers, he sniped them. He got a better deall than those officers did, he was taken alive by the officer's colleagues, who support the rule of law. Deputy Huskey's half-brother was the Sheriff of the County. He was one of the arresting officers who professionally made the arrest after one of NC's largest manhunts.

The killer died after due process. What due process did these good men get by dying from bullet wounds to the head in a ditch on a country road? TPR "Pete" Peterson was a respected and revered trooper. He was a legendary physical training instructor at patrol school in Raleigh. He had served at the training center unutil he transferred to Rutherford County.

When I went through patrol basic school 6 years after his murder, the older troopers and guys in my class who were going through school again would tell "Pete" tales of his unbelievable PT exploits: running 3 miles to play golf in the late morning Raleigh heat AFTER he conducted a grueling 2 hours of PT with the cadets!

He and the deputies involved died as heroes. The 2 Rutherford County officers were responding to help a teenage girl, who was being beaten by her drunken father. TPR Peterson did not even know what he had gotten into when he was shot down in such a cruel manner. He just knew something was wrong and he went to help, even before he was dispatched. That is unselfish altruism.

TPR Peterson was well-liked and respected by the people he served in Rutherford County and throughout the state. He is still missed so many years later. Pray for his family, friends and colleagues.

Pete Peterson now patrols the highways of Heaven with St. Michael. God Bless and be safe.

Chief JA Millan
(Former G-442, NCSHP)

Chief JA Millan
NC Public Schools, Avery Dist. SP

I went to basic patrol school with this man. He was as fine as they come.The death penalty was just for this "creature" that did this. MAY GOD BLESS YOU PETE.

North Carolina Highway Patrol

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