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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Scottsdale, Arizona 04/23/2006

Det. James Peters acted immediately and decisively to end a barricade incident before it could spiral out of control.

September 27, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

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Entering a door he thought led to the catwalk, Peters instead found himself behind the meat counter. Blessedly, it afforded an angle from which Peters could see Brown and his hostage just beyond a set of double doors that led to the back of the store.

Peters ordered Brown to release the hostage.

Brown's response was obscene and emphatic, ending with the word "you."

Keeping his back toward an alcove wall, Brown made his way to a doorway using the hostage as a shield between himself and Peters. As he drew near the doors, Brown suddenly spun himself and the hostage around and ran out the door.

But the advanced years of his hostage compromised Brown's gait and he fell. Beyond the threshold, Brown stood over the kneeling hostage and put the gun to the old man's head.

Det. Peters took one step out the door, his Colt Commando in tow.

There was no time to get into a better position, no chance as Peters saw it to put his negotiation skills to work. Dropping down to afford himself an upward shot in deference to the possibility of any friendlies in the darkness beyond, Peters took aim and squeezed the Colt's trigger.

A 75-grain .223 round exploded from the Colt's 11-inch barrel and tore into Brown's back. As Brown's body recoiled upward from the blow, Peters took aim at the man's head and squeezed the trigger a second time.

Brown was dead before he hit the ground.

Keeping the Faith

Brown was hardly unknown to Arizona authorities, and in the aftermath of the shooting it was determined that he'd shot and killed a man two months earlier over a drug deal. And the fact that Brown had effectively disarmed himself by accidentally dropping his magazine doesn't mitigate Peters' heroism. Such facts were not known until well after the incident.

"The plainclothes officer that came to the situation after the initial standoff said that he saw Brown pull the trigger to shoot at him," Peters notes. "We're guessing that's when it happened, but we don't truly know. There was a primer strike on it, but we don't know when that happened. It didn't happen with the initial officer at the traffic stop because the gun had a magazine drop safety. If he had fired with the magazine in it prior to hitting the door in the QT gas station the gun would have gone off."

The hostage victim has been interviewed several times since the incident. A special meeting was held between Det. Peters and the victim, as well as the victim's appreciative family.

This was the fourth of six shootings that Det. Peters has been involved in so far in his career. After his first shooting, he couldn't sleep, he had nightmares in which he would relive the incident, and communication problems developed in his marriage. Six months later, he was involved in another shooting.

It was after his second shooting that Peters met with a non-departmental psychologist who insisted on meeting individually with him, as well as jointly with he and his wife. Peters credits this psychologist with teaching him how to communicate with others.

In marked contrast from his personality prior to his counseling, he is now very candid about his experiences. He began to teach classes about officer-involved shootings. He is able to recall a great deal of detail about his shootings, having experienced some auditory exclusion, but never having tunnel vision.

Peters notes that the coping mechanisms in dealing with shootings can be very different from person to person. While psychological counseling has certainly helped, Peters cites his faith as having sustained him, as well. Early in his career, that faith was on shakier ground.

Raised a devout Christian, Peters had found himself straying from that path. He felt that people who disagreed with him were against him and took it as a personal attack instead of trying to learn from it. This made him reticent to talk with people, something which cost him in the short run.

But after his first shooting, his mother-in-law gave him a small inspirational book for police officers that he still carries with him today. It relates scriptures from the Bible to different situations that police officers may face on the job.

"It talks about why taking a life doesn't necessarily make you a bad person," Peters says. "You have to examine why you took the life. Having a belief system that helps you answer those unknown questions, whether you believe in God or not, helps lift the weight off my mind."

For his heroic actions that night, Peters received the Scottsdale Police Department Medal of Valor and was a top three finalist for the American Society for Industrial Security International award.

But not everyone was so enamored of Peters' actions. One local newspaper in particular seemed to go out of its way to put Peters in a bad light following his shootings.

"Fortunately, the people of Arizona stood up and let the news know that what they were doing was wrong," recalls an appreciative Peters. "They called the mayor and the chief and wanted to make sure that I was being taken care of."

Peters continues to serve the people of Scottsdale. And he does so with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that he has their back. And they have his.

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Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Charles Wade @ 2/15/2011 11:59 PM

I read every word, looked at every picture, and watched the video. I know a child who is suffering because he lost his dad, but this sight and these pics are gonna leave a lasting scar. While I applaud the officer for protecting the public and risking his life, I cannot help wondering why an innocent child would have to see his dad that way, which only causes more pain. Please remove this, for Zach's sake, the ripples reach out over the internet and continue to cause pain.



Jenna @ 4/5/2011 3:03 PM

Concerned I'm not sure who you are or how you know my uncle. but thank you so much for your comment. I completely agree with you... and I would love to know who you are...

Melannie @ 10/1/2012 7:07 AM

Thank you chArles wade for ur comment and concern about zac!! And to the pictures posted, I am the boys mother, I don't stand behind crime and it is unfortunate that Dan Brown couldn't steer clear of it!! But as for my son Zachary Robert Brown, he was only 6 years old when peters took dans life! He didn't ever know if his dad criminal life! I tried to keep it away from him but these pictures have scared him for life!! I am asking if u would please remove or even sensor them for his sake!! I know u probly won't due to the officers achievements (if u wan to call it that) to remove them so u can honor the officer, but this little boy is the concern now!! He has to make it through life with out a father and doesn't appreciate these pictureS! So to officer Peters if u have any children and u know what they have to overcome to have a successful life!! Please remove these pictures of Zachary's father, the man u shot!!

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