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Reserve deputy cleared for killing Stevens County man

John Peterson
John Peterson

The Stevens County Prosecutor announced today that he will not charge a reserve deputy who shot and killed a man in October at his rural home located between Valley and Springdale.

Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said John E. Peterson, 65, aimed his gun at reserve Deputy Nick Wolfe on Oct. 19; Wolfe fired one round, killing the Vietnam War veteran. Peterson had recently moved to Stevens County from Minnesota.

After the shot, Peterson reportedly told the deputies, “It wasn’t even loaded, you f———- idiots,” Rasmussen wrote in a news release. A check of the gun near Peterson showed it was unloaded.

“The deputies announced their presence and commanded Mr. Peterson to put down the weapon,” wrote the prosecutor, noting the commands were recorded on the 911 call. “Mr. Peterson did not do what the deputies wanted. Instead, he turned toward them and raised the weapon as if to fire.

“The facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic loss of life are such that it is my opinion that Deputy Wolfe was justified in using deadly force during this incident and will not be charged.”

The incident began at about 10:40 p.m. on Oct. 19, when Peterson called 911 and began talking with an emergency dispatcher, who directed deputies to Peterson’s home at 2675 Deer Creek Road.

During the call, the dispatcher heard sounds that made her believe Peterson was manipulating a handgun. “She was concerned that Mr. Peterson might shoot himself during the call,” Rasmussen wrote.

The dispatcher stayed on the phone with Peterson as Deputy Travis Frizzell and Wolfe arrived at the home. The deputies parked a short distance away with their lights off and approached the home on foot.

“As the deputies approached and confirmed that Mr. Peterson had a handgun in his hand, the deputies took places of cover behind the corners of the garage of the house,” Rasmussen wrote.

From about 40 feet away, Frizzell could be heard on the recording saying: “John, Sheriff’s Office, drop the gun right now.” But the deputies said Peterson didn’t drop the gun and turned toward Frizzell’s voice as Peterson raised the gun in his right hand “at or in the direction” of the deputies.

Wolfe “states that Mr. Peterson pointed the weapon directly at him,” Rasmussen wrote. “Deputy Wolfe fired one shot from his service handgun. Mr. Peterson was struck by the bullet and fell to the ground.”

During a search of the area, investigators found one unspent cartridge that testing showed had earlier been ejected from Peterson’s gun. Toxicology testing showed that Peterson had a blood alcohol content of .097 percent.

“A reasonable officer in the circumstances of Deputy Wolfe would have believed, as did Deputy Wolfe, that Peterson presented a very real threat of physical harm when he displayed the weapon in this fashion and pointed the weapon directly at” him, Rasmussen wrote.