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Man sought in shooting of deputies found miles from home, across Fox River

Frank Abderholden

fabderholden@stmedianetwork.com

HOLIDAY HILLS — A man accused of shooting two McHenry County Sheriff deputies was found a few miles away from his home, walking along a road, after two people called police to report a suspicious person.

McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren said Scott Peters, 52, was unarmed, but they believed they knew where the weapon used in the shooting was located — it was near where the incident began, and Nygren expected authorities would find it soon.

At a Thursday night press conference, Nygren said after Peters came out of a wooded area in a T-shirt and shorts, two people called police to report seeing him.

“Three deputies approached him and he was taken into custody without incident,” Nygren said.

It had been earlier reported that Peters was taken into custody about 5:15 p.m.; details of the arrest were withheld until the press conference.

Nygren noted Peters had somehow eluded 250 police officers — and three aircraft — that had been searching the area. He was found a few miles away, on the other side of the Fox River. Nygren did not know how Peters crossed the Fox River.

“This day ends on a positive note,” he said, thanking the media for getting the description of the suspect out to residents. “The community is safe again.

The incident began after the suspect’s wife had called a friend in Michigan. That friend called the McHenry County sheriff’s office, asking that someone check on the well-being of the wife early Thursday.

According to Nygren, Peters, who has military experience, fired a rifle through the door of the home, opened the door and continued firing, hitting a female deputy in the leg and striking a male deputy in the leg and abdomen.

The deputies were reported shot at 1:30 a.m. Thursday in the 1300 block of West Northeast Shore Dr. in unincorporated McHenry County, McHenry County Sheriff’s Lt. James Wagner said. That touched off the manhunt for the retired Green Beret.

Peters was wanted on two counts each of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

The male officer — a seven-year veteran of the McHenry County Sheriff’s office — was taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where he was listed in “stable but critical” condition, police said. The female deputy, a 12-year veteran, was taken to Centegra Hospital – McHenry, authorities said. Her condition had stabilized.

Two other people who had been inside the residence escaped safely by 5:45 a.m.

Holiday Hills Village President Dan Drury had few details about Peters’ life, other than to say he had lived in the neighborhood for a number of years and was retired from military service.

Peters is a retired Green Beret – U.S. Army Special Forces – according to someone who knew him in the past. The acquaintance, who didn’t want to be identified, described Peters as a very smart man, with both an analytical mind and also very skillful with his hands.

Peters could build “anything that he put his mind to,” the acquaintance said, referring to him as a “wonderful soul.”

People in the area were encouraged to remain in their homes as authorities were evacuating residences in the vicinity. A reverse-911 call had been sent to homes that were affected. Nygren said deputies were going door-to-door in the small village in unincorporated McHenry County to make sure everyone was safe.

One neighbor who lives on the street where the shootings occurred said she was awakened in the middle of the night by gunfire.

“I heard a whole bunch of gunshots,” said the neighbor, who didn’t want her name used. “I heard first three of them, then I heard boom, boom, boom, boom!”

When the neighbor woke her husband, he told her, “You’re dreaming,” she said.

The neighbor said the family at the home where the shootings occurred had lived there between 10 and 12 years. She didn’t recall any previous incidents there with police.

One neighbor said police, as part of their checks, stopped residents leaving for work in their cars Thursday morning.

Neighborhood resident Ray Diaz, 35, said they were notified by telephone of the incident. He said they were letting people drive out, which he did to take his son to school. He said they police let some people walk back into the subdivision who don’t live near the scene, including him.

Diaz said the incident alarmed him.

“You always hear about these things but I never experienced it myself,” he said.

Mike Drake, 66, who lives on Hickory, brought his son out of the neighborhood to go to school but was prevented from returning home.

“I was just telling my wife, why do we have to lock all the doors and windows at night? It’s not like this is high crime area,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a quiet neighborhood. We don’t even have street lights.”

Drury said Thursday morning that it remained unclear whether the gunman was still inside the home, where he lived with his wife and daughter. At one point, police had communication with the gunman inside the home, Drury said, but he slipped away.

“It’s being handled professionally,” Drury said. “We’ve got multiple towns and multiple jurisdictions here. Every effort is being made to make sure residents are safe and secure.”

State Police crime scene units had arrived on the scene later in the morning to assist in the investigation.

A convoy of five Illinois State Police cars entered the subdivision at 8:50 a.m., followed by a Cook County Sheriff’s K-9 unit.

A short while later, more SWAT team members arrived, and shortly after 9 a.m., an Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigators SUV left the area at River Road and Sunset Drive with numerous brown-paper bags stacked on a passenger seat.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.