When Eric Peterson expressed interest in joining the Army not long after 9-11, his parents, William and June Peterson, did their best to talk their son out of it.
So when Peterson, a Keller High School graduate, began working as a cook at a hotel and tossing around the idea of attending culinary school, his relieved parents drove with him to visit campuses in Vermont.
“I thought we were going to have him sign on the dotted line so we wouldn’t have to worry about this Army thing,” his father recalled. “We came back to Texas a short time later, and he wanted to join the Army again. He thought it was something that he needed to do. He wanted some adventure.”
His time in the military came with close calls.
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While stationed in Germany, Peterson suffered a broken leg in a training exercise. After it healed, he was deployed to Iraq, where he escaped serious injury when the tank he was driving got blown up, seriously injuring two others. Another time, he later told his parents, an itch on his leg while riding in an Army truck saved his life.
“He bent down to [scratch] it. One of those IEDs went off and when he looked up, there was a hole in the canopy right where his head would have been,” William Peterson said. “He had some other close calls. I don’t think he ever told us about all of them.”
Though he survived his time in the Army, Peterson’s life came to a violent end Saturday. He was shot to death while working at Military Gun Supply, 2901 S. Cravens Road in far east Fort Worth.
Peterson was 32.
Police were still searching Monday for the person who shot him multiple times in the store.
“What for? What does that person really gain?” a distraught William Peterson asked Monday. “Maybe a few bucks out of the till? Maybe a couple handguns or something? I don’t know. It doesn’t justify taking anybody’s life.”
Homicide Sgt. Joe Loughman said Tuesday that nothing was taken from the store during the slaying and that investigators are still trying to determine the motive.
Police had earlier released a security camera video of a person who made a purchase before the shooting. In the video, Peterson rings up the purchase — it appears to be a box of ammunition — and the man leaves.
Loughman said Tuesday that the man in the video has been identified by investigators but has not yet been interviewed.
A feisty 5-5
William Peterson described his son as tough but yet genuine.
“He had what you might say was the little guy syndrome because he was a little smaller than normal,” William Peterson said. “He was only like 5-5. He was tough, but if you were his friend, he’d do anything for you.”
A baby who came a month early “because he wanted to get a start on this world,” Eric Peterson was full of mischief, his father said.
He was well-liked by the teachers he respected and a not-so-favorite of those he didn’t like.
“The first time my wife went to meet with the teacher for a conference, it was ‘Ahhhh, what a sweet little boy,’” William Peterson recalled. “Months later, she had another conference. Then it was, ‘What a manipulative little son of a gun.’”
William Peterson said his son had an interest in firearms, which grew with his time in the military. Peterson’s passion went beyond fire power, William Peterson said, as he could tell you about the history of guns and the battles they were used in.
When he returned to Fort Worth after serving in the military, Peterson set about turning his interest into a new job.
“He just looked up gun stores in the phone book, and he walked into this store and gave them a spiel,” William Peterson said. “The gun store owner didn’t even need anybody at that time, but he hired him anyway. I always said he’d be a used car salesman — he’s that good.”
Store owner David Noble said he was happy to hire Peterson in 2009.
“We felt having a veteran that had chosen to serve our country come in and work alongside us was an honor and an opportunity,” Noble said in a email Monday night.
William Peterson said he and his wife worried about their son working at the store.
“We had on multiple occasions talked to him about finding a different store to work at, at least in a better part of town,” William Peterson said. “There are shops that are in better parts of Fort Worth but he liked it there.”
Noble said Peterson enjoyed his work and shared common interests with many of his customers. He and his wife were touched by the number of people who have expressed sadness about Peterson’s death.
“Having never gone through anything like this before, we are just having to take things one day at a time,” Noble said.
Noble said he wasn’t sure when he’ll reopen the store.
Died at the scene
On Saturday evening, the parents were eating dinner and watching the news when one of their son’s co-workers called.
“He said there was an altercation at work. The paramedics are working on Eric and that’s all he could tell us,” William Peterson said.
The couple rushed to John Peter Smith Hospital, thinking their son would be there, but the hospital had no record of him. They called other hospitals without success before driving to the gun supply store.
“We got there, and there were all these police there,” William Peterson said. “They had it all roped off. We couldn’t cross the line.”
As police investigated, the couple waited there for almost three hours “hoping for the best but knowing it could be the other way also,” William Peterson said.
“I still had hope at that time that he got wounded, that they had already taken him to a hospital,” he said, “but that isn’t what happened.”
Eric Peterson was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m.
‘We all need that’
Peterson said his son seemed to be getting his life back together after a failed marriage and was dealing with some of the issues that he experienced from his time in the military. He’d gotten a miniature Schnauzer, whom he named Trigger, and had been training the dog to sit inside a sidecar of Peterson’s motorcycle for short rides.
“It gave him a little companionship and something to care about besides himself,” William Peterson said. “We all need that.”
Peterson said he and his wife had been looking forward to Christmas. The couple had bought their daughter an airplane ticket to visit “so I would have both my kids here.”
“My daughter is here now because of what happened.” he said.
The father said he last saw his son a couple of weeks ago, when he stopped to pick up an item, and they talked briefly.
“We always hugged and said we loved each other,” William Peterson said. “That was our thing. I’ll never have that again.”
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655