Blue on Blue: Lessons from a tragic 2007 shooting

When one of your 'band of brothers' leaves the band

There have been a number of “Blue on Blue” shootings in the news recently. These incidents present responding officers with a variety of challenges logistically, tactically, and emotionally. A report is available online on one justifiable blue-on-blue shooting which followed the officer involved domestic violence multiple homicide in Crandon, Wisconsin.

The report reveals Officer Tyler Peterson was a young officer, who showed great promise as a 20-year-old member of the Forest County Sheriff’s Department.  He possessed such great skills and potential he was trained in SWAT and placed on the area Tactical Team. Tyler had a secret dark-side, however, witnessed by his girlfriend, Jordanne Murray. She experienced several incidents of abuse and attempted to separate from Tyler. Jordanne did not report these incidents to the police (perhaps to avoid jeopardizing his career).

In the early morning hours of October 7, 2007 Jordanne was at a small gathering with friends. Tyler arrived after a night of shining deer and drinking beer. He accused Jordanne of having a relationship with one of the young men present and the off duty Deputy was asked to leave. Peterson appeared to comply with this request. 

He would reveal to a friend later someone called him a “worthless pig,” and he “snapped.”

Peterson returned a short time later with his AR-15 and forced the locked door open. He entered the home then moved through the residence systematically shooting and killing Jordanne Murray, Lianna Thomas, Katrina McCorkle, Lindsey Stahl, Bradley Schultz, and Aaron Smith. Peterson also shot Charlie Neitzel three times, but Neitzel survived the ordeal by feigning dead.

After running out of people to shoot, Peterson exited the home and headed toward his truck. Officer Greg Carter of the Crandon Police Department arrived at the scene and was immediately at a disadvantage. He did not see a killer standing in front of him, but a fellow officer. Tyler turned suddenly toward Carter and sprayed the windshield of the squad in a clear attempt to kill his former partner. Carter instantly lay across the seat and slammed the squad into reverse backing out of the kill zone. Greg then exited the squad and quickly moved to cover.

Carter‘s face was bleeding, hit by flying glass. His vision was blurred by glass fragments in his eyes, but he was able to radio in information about what had happened and who the suspect was as Peterson fled the scene.

Investigators would later reveal Peterson’s rounds missed Carter by centimeters.

The Manhunt and Standoff
After the horrific nature of Peterson’s crime was discovered, multiple agencies embarked on a very dangerous man hunt for a member of their own “Band of Brothers,” who had left the band.  All cops gone rogue create the same problem that Peterson did. Peterson:

1.) Knew what they knew.
2.) Knew the terrain well.
3.) Possessed a radio and listened to their transmissions.
4.) Possessed the same weaponry and equipment.
5.) Was well trained and skilled in the use of these weapons.
6.) Knew their tactics.

Tyler used all of these advantages to avoid his capture initially. He made multiple phone calls, admitting his crime, expressing his intent on turning himself in, while all of his actions proved otherwise. He told family that he would not go to prison to serve six life sentences. In an effort to confound his pursuers he said he was calling from miles away from somewhere in the upper Michigan peninsula.

At 0915 hours, law enforcement officers received information that Tyler Peterson was at “The Kegley House,” where he was drinking and eating with a number of people. Tactical Teams from Oneida, Langlade and Vilas County sealed off the home, which was bordered by the heavy forest of Northern Wisconsin. All officers at the scene were advised that Tyler Peterson had killed six people and was not to be allowed to leave containment.

During the negotiations that followed Tyler demanded to be allowed to leave armed, so he could drive himself to Oneida County Sheriff’s Department and turn himself in. This demand was denied. The negotiator pleaded with Tyler to “Make a good decision here.”

Tyler allowed some people with him to leave the house. He kept others and although he assured the negotiator that he would not harm anyone he called those still with him “collateral.”

The difficult terrain, the innocents present, Tyler’s weaponry, training, and skill made the entry option an especially dangerous proposition, so negotiators continued to negotiate Tyler’s surrender.

The Death of Tyler Peterson
At 1225 hours Tyler Peterson hung up the phone.  Sensing something was afoot Forest County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ken Van Cleve re-enforced to officers on the perimeter that Peterson was not to be allowed to leave containment.

At 1230 hours a tactical officer on the perimeter saw Tyler, who was armed with a pistol, attempting to escape into the heavy forest adjacent to the Kegley home. The tactical officer aimed at the last part of Peterson, he could see and fired. Tyler fell. The round fired from 140 yards away struck Tyler and traveled through his bicep. Witnesses reported hearing two more quick shots followed by a third shot from Peterson’s location.

On approach, tactical officers found Peterson. They moved a handgun out of his reach and handcuffed him. Upon closer inspection they discovered Tyler was dead. An autopsy revealed that Peterson shot himself twice under the chin. When these rounds failed to end his life he fired a third round into his own temple.

There will always be officers who will tarnish the badge by forcing fellow officers to fire at them because of their imminent and deadly intent inspired by criminality or suicidal thoughts. If you discover yourself engaging in a standoff with an armed fellow officer, you can use care and empathy in your negotiations, but do not jeopardize your safety. Do not let your relationship cause you to abandon good solid tactics during the event.

Handle them with care, but use extreme caution.

For those of us who have had to aim our duty weapon at a fellow officer, we know of the conflicting thoughts that can invade the mind during those long moments of decision. The few who have had to pull the trigger are the only ones who know of the long agonizing that can follow. 

Remember this. Do what you can to help, but do not allow a fellow officer’s bad decisions to end your career — or your life.

Information used in this article came from the Wisconsin Department of Justice Report, which you can read in full here

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