Clint Peterson's on-again, off-again girlfriend called the police on October 28 to report that he showed up uninvited to her house that morning and vandalized her car. She says she warned the dispatcher that Peterson also sometimes carried a fake gun and may have had it on him. The girlfriend was still on the phone when Duncanville Police Department officers arrived to her house on Kelly Court. In less than a minute, witnesses say, one of the officers shot and killed Peterson as he was running away.
A Dallas County grand jury finally got the case this week and decided on Thursday not to indict any of the three officers who responded to the call.
Whether Peterson ever brandished that fake weapon during the police confrontation is now disputed.
Shortly after Peterson died, the Duncanville Police Department sent out a press release that said Peterson died during a foot chase. Other than that, there were few specifics, as we reported in a December cover story. The release made no mention of any real or fake weapons recovered by his body, and the department declined to discuss details about the case while the investigation was pending.
Now that the grand jury has issued no-bills, the attorney who represents the officers says that Peterson pointed what officers thought was a real gun at them, provoking one of them to shoot.
"He basically refused to comply with the officers, then took off running," says attorney Robert Rogers. "As he was running, he pulled out a silver and black handgun from the pocket of his hoodie and pointed it at the officers." Rogers didn't want to respond to questions about whether the gun was real or fake, only that the officers thought it was real. "He pointed what they believed to be a real gun at them," Rogers says. A source close to the investigation who isn't one of the witnesses says the gun was in fact a toy.
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Rogers says the weapon was recovered by Peterson's body. He doesn't know why the Duncanville Police Department never mentioned that in their news release. An autopsy report we detailed in a previous story also makes no mention of any type of weapons recovered.
Real or fake, civil rights experts say that cops are entitled to shoot suspects who point guns at them. But the three women who witnessed Peterson's death claimed that they never saw Peterson brandish the weapon in front of the cops.
Debra Gallegos, Peterson's girlfriend, told us in December that she only warned the 911-dispatcher about the fake gun because she was worried the officers would see it and think it was real. "I said, 'I thought I told you that it was a fake gun, if he even had one,'" Gallegos told us, rehashing her 911 call. Gallegos said that the 911 call would confirm her version of the story, but we haven't been able to obtain it so far.
The three officers who faced the grand jury investigation are Eddie Edwards, Andrew Armstrong and Thomas Davis. Their attorney wouldn't say which one fired the fatal shot.