February 8, 2013 in City

Reserve deputy justified in fatal shooting

By The Spokesman-Review
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The Stevens County prosecutor won’t charge a reserve deputy who shot and killed a man in October at his rural home located between Valley and Springdale, Wash.

John E. Peterson, who was 65, aimed his gun at reserve Deputy Nick Wolfe, who then fired one round that killed Peterson, a Vietnam War veteran.

After the shot, Peterson reportedly told the deputies, “It wasn’t even loaded, you … idiots,” according to a news release. A check of the gun located near Peterson showed it was unloaded.

“The deputies announced their presence and commanded Mr. Peterson to put down the weapon,” Tim Rasmussen, Stevens County prosecutor, said in the release, 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.”

Wolfe was justified in using deadly force, Rasmussen concluded.

Peterson called 911 the evening of Oct. 19 and began talking with an emergency dispatcher, who directed deputies to Peterson’s home at 2675 Deer Creek Road. Peterson had recently moved to Stevens County from Minnesota.

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

The dispatcher remained on the phone with Peterson as Deputy Travis Frizzell and Wolfe arrived, approaching the home on foot.

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 Peterson turned toward Frizzell’s voice as he raised the gun in his right hand in the direction of the deputies, the release said.

Wolfe said Peterson pointed the gun directly at him, and that he fired one shot from his service handgun, striking Peterson.

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 0.097 percent.

Doug Kari, a spokesman for Peterson’s family, has said the former Navy medic suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and often called law enforcement in Minnesota when he became upset or depressed.

Kari could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

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