A 23-year-old Oklahoma man who gunned down three teen burglars with an AR-15 rifle during a home invasion at his father’s house in Broken Arrow will not face criminal charges.
Zachary Peters was acting in self defense when he killed the three intruders, the Wagoner County District Attorney’s Office announced on April 3, Tulsa Public Radio reports.
The three teens were wearing masks, were dressed in black and two of the three were armed, one with a knife and the other with brass knuckles, the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office says. The teens ranged in age from 16 to 19, police say.
A woman who told police she drove the three teens to the house and planned to be the getaway driver is facing three counts of first-degree felony murder. Elizabeth Marie Rodriguez, 21, fled from the scene after hearing gunshots and later turned herself in at the Broken Arrow Police Department to give the officers the names of the dead teens, KOTV reports.
Felony murder charges can be brought against someone who commits a felony resulting in death in Oklahoma regardless if they actually kill someone, according to state law. Rodriguez was also arrested on three counts of first-degree burglary.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Peters Woke Up to the Sound of the Break-In, Grabbed the AR-15 & Opened Fire on the Intruders After Exchanging Words
Zach Peters told police he woke up to “loud bangs” when the three intruders broke a glass door in the rear of the house, the Tulsa World reports.
He armed himself with an AR-15 rifle and opened fire on the trio when he confronted them in a hallway after they briefly exchanged words, police said. Two of the burglars died in the home’s kitchen, while a third escaped to the driveway, where he collapsed and died.
“They were dressed in black, all had masks on, and all had gloves on,” Deputy Nick Mahoney told reporters, adding that the initial investigation suggests the teens planned to burglarize the house. “There was a short exchange of words and then gunfire happened.”
Peters lives in the house on Clearview Drive in Broken Arrow with his father, the homeowner, and his mother.
Police responded to the home for a report of shots fired about 12:30 p.m., the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office said.
The 911 call made by Peters to report the shooting and break-in was released Wednesday.
“I shot two of them, now I am barricaded in my bedroom,” Peters said in the call. “I can hear one of them talking.”
Police said all three teens were killed when Peters fired at them with an AR-15 rifle. Two died in the kitchen and a third collapsed and died in the driveway outside.
You can listen to the call below:
A neighbor, Leon Simmons, told KTUL-TV he heard the gunfire.
“Well, I thought it was thunder, I just heard something, I had the doors closed,” Simmons told the news station.
“The shots were so loud — loud enough that I ran to the window to see what had happened,” another neighbor, who didn’t wish to give her name, told the Tulsa World. “Something in me knew it was gunshots, but I didn’t know what had happened until I went to leave my house and saw all the police officers.”
2. The Woman Accused of Being the Getaway Driver Planned the Burglary & Knew Peters by Name, Police Say
Elizabeth Marie Rodriguez, the 21-year-old woman who admitted to being the getaway driver, is also accused of planning the burglary, KTUL-TV reports. According to court documents obtained by the news station, Rodriguez had prior knowledge about the house and knew Zachary Peters by his first name.
“Rodriguez planned the burglary and took the three suspects to the residence on two separate occasions on today’s date wanting to steal items,” police said in a probable cause affidavit. “Rodriguez instructed the three suspects to burglarize the residence while she waited in the driveway in her vehicle until she heard gunshots then fled the scene.”
According to court documents, Rodriguez turned herself in after seeing news of the shooting on TV because she wanted police to be able to tell the families of the three teens about what happened. She refused to give further information to investigators. But another witness has given police information, according to the court documents.
“We know somehow they have some acquaintance, but we don’t know how or why,” Deputy Nick Mahoney told the Tulsa World, of the relationship between Rodriguez and Peters.
Formal charges of murder were filed against Rodriguez on April 3. She has been held without bail since her arrest.
3. The District Attorney Called the Shooting ‘Justifiable’
First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp called the shooting “justifiable.”
Zachary Peters volunteered to go to the Wagoner Sheriff’s Office to give a statement to investigators, KTUL-TV reports.
Thorp said last week “This is obviously a triple homicide, and so we want to make sure that we cross all of our t’s and dot all of our i’s and insure that we have the maximum amount of information before we make formal decisions. It is complex.”
4. Peters Works at a Local Airline & Is a Criminal Justice Student at Tulsa Community College
Zach Peters works at Omni Air International, a local airline, as a crew schedule, according to his Linkedin profile. He also works at QuickFlight Services at Tulsa International Airport as an operations agent, he says on Linkedin.
He is a student at Tulsa Community College, where he is pursuing an associate’s degree in criminal justice. He is set to graduate this year.
Peters graduated from Broken Arrow High School in 2014.
“I have work experience in both retail and aviation with customer service experience in both fields. I also have my private pilot’s license, and studied the German language for four years,” he says on Linkedin.
5. Neighbors Say There Have Been Numerous Burglaries Recently in Peters’ Normally Quiet Neighborhood
Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Nick Mahoney said a triple homicide is extremely rare in the quiet county.
“This is not something that happens frequently here,” Mahoney told KJRH-TV. “We don’t generally have triple shootings inside Wagoner County. This is a very nice neighborhood and the neighbors have all been concerned. It’s not something that happens.”
But neighbors say there have been numerous burglaries in the area in recent weeks and reported other suspicious activity.
“Within the past six months we’ve had two or three burglaries out here,” Leon Simmons, a neighbor, told KTUL-TV. Police say they haven’t connected Monday’s incident to any other break-ins.
“We’ve noticed a lot more people driving slow through the neighborhood, more than one at a time,” Simmons told KOTV.
Another neighbor, who didn’t want to be identified, told the Tulsa World she saw a suspicious black truck in the neighborhood, near where the burglary occurred on Monday, in the hours leading up to the incident.