In October, the Duncanville Police Department responded to what they vaguely described as a "major disturbance." After they arrived, a 28-year-old man named Clinton Peterson somehow ended up getting shot to death.
The police department admitted this much in a press release published shortly after the shooting. But cops provided no other details about who fired the fatal shots or why there was a shooting in the first place.
"Preliminary reports indicate that shots were fired during a foot chase between two Duncanville Police Officers and an individual. The individual was fatally wounded," says a department news release.
Meanwhile, the three witnesses to the shooting - -who were all either related or close friends with Peterson -- have a disturbing story. They say Peterson was unarmed and running away when a cop shot him in the back of the head for no apparent reason. Afterward, Peterson collapsed on a driveway. The cops then guarded the witnesses from Peterson's body, they say, leaving him there to die without anyone by his side.
"They didn't even check to see if he was dead or alive. They didn't even touch him," Clint's sister Melissa told the Observer last year. We on reported on the shadowy circumstances surrounding Peterson's death in a December feature story.
The Duncanville Police Department has remained silent about most of the case, but we've just obtained a new autopsy report that supports some the witnesses' account of what happened that day.
The Dallas County medical examiner's autopsy report says that Peterson died from a gunshot wound in the right side of his head, directly behind his ear. The path of the bullet was "slightly back to front, right to left, and downward." His death is ruled a homicide.
"There is no evidence of emergency resuscitation or medical therapy," the report says.
The report backs up the witnesses' claim that Peterson was unarmed -- there's no mention of any gun found with his body. The examiners did find wires on his clothing, but this seems to be consistent with the witnesses' story -- that Peterson, a mechanic, had visited his girlfriend's house that morning to mess with her car so she couldn't drive it without calling him again. That's why she called the cops in the first place.
"You're an officer, you're trained, and there's two of you, and you couldn't have tackled the guy?," the girlfriend, Debra Gallegos, said in an interview last year.
The report indicates that Peterson had .44mg/L of methamphetamine in his blood, .05mg/L of amphetamine and some marijuana, a finding not surprising, given that other friends had told the Observer that Peterson had been abusing substances and planned to check into rehab. Still, everyone we spoke with described him as not violent.
Meanwhile, the two officers involved were on paid administrative leave for less than a week before returning to work. "I don't see anything wrong with that decision," Robert Brown, the Duncanville police chief, told us last year.
On the phone yesterday, Brown said he hasn't seen this autopsy report, though we've since sent him a copy and asked for a response.
"Law enforcement officers have the unique authority to remove a person's freedom and to use deadly force. Both an internal affairs investigation and a criminal investigation are being conducted," he wrote back via email. Later, he adds: "Until both investigations have been completed and I know specifically what the facts are, I will not make assumptions on what occurred. I will also support the involved officers until a complete and thorough investigation suggest otherwise."
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