Mother of arrested ex-Tempe cop shares her son's struggles - CBS 5 - KPHO

Mother of arrested ex-Tempe cop shares her son's struggles

Posted: Updated:
After high school he joined the Army National Guard (Air Assault Infantry) (Source: Susan Churchill) After high school he joined the Army National Guard (Air Assault Infantry) (Source: Susan Churchill)
He has two young boys with his ex-wife. (Source: Susan Churchill) He has two young boys with his ex-wife. (Source: Susan Churchill)
(Source: Susan Churchill) (Source: Susan Churchill)
(Source: Susan Churchill) (Source: Susan Churchill)
(Source: Susan Churchill) (Source: Susan Churchill)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Garrett Peterson, a former Tempe police officer, led authorities on a high-speed chase in the Valley early Saturday morning and again was involved in a police pursuit near Yuma Monday.

According to Tempe Police Department officials, Peterson resigned Monday morning.

Peterson is being held in a Yuma jail on a $1 million bond and faces seven felony charges including aggravated assault, criminal damage and unlawful flight.

In a letter to CBS 5 News, his mother, Susan Churchill, describes her son's struggle with alcoholism and depression.

"Garrett was raised in Maplewood, Minnesota and attended Catholic schools.  He excelled at soccer.  After high school he joined the Army National Guard (Air Assault Infantry) and worked security at a St. Paul hospital.  During this time he met his ex-wife and they had their first son.  He was deployed to Kosovo and when he returned they married and their second son was born.  Garrett's dream was to become a police officer, and he attended the police academy in St. Paul, MN.  He also worked as a reserve officer in a suburb of St. Paul.

"His ex-wife's family moved down to Arizona and she wanted to also.  Although their marriage was rocky by this point, Garrett went to Arizona also in order to stay with his sons.  He applied at the Tempe Police Department and was hired.  The next year he was divorced but remained in Chandler in order to be near his kids.

"Unfortunately Garrett developed an alcohol problem and things began spiraling out of control.  He is a great guy when not drinking – responsible, caring with a strong sense of right and wrong.  However, something happens to him when he drinks and he becomes a totally different person.  It doesn't help that there is a strong genetic disposition for depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.  I have many, many relatives with those problems, and his paternal grandfather also had a drinking problem.  Before he became a cop he told me that sometimes he gets very depressed.  I suggested that he see someone and get on anti-depressants.  He didn't want to because he thought that would reflect badly on him and he wouldn't be able to become a police officer with any sign of mental illness or "weakness" on his record.

"The last couple of years Garrett's drinking problem got progressively worse.  His father, Tom Peterson, went down to Arizona at least twice to stay with Garrett while he went through rehab.  He would do well for a short time, then relapse.  It got so bad that his ex-wife would not let him see his children anymore.  Nobody can blame her – she was only protecting the boys.  I have always cared for her and know she had to look after herself and the kids.  The Tempe Police Dept. was also aware of Garrett's drinking problem.  They were not covering up for him – they were trying to help him while allowing him to keep his job because he was a good police officer.

"I think recent stresses got to Garrett and he just couldn't handle it anymore.  His cousin, with whom he spent a lot of time while growing up, committed suicide last month.  He hadn't seen his kids for over 3 months and it was killing him inside.  His boys were his world.  His drinking was out of control.

"His dad was on the phone with him and talked him into surrendering after the Dec. 13 stand-off.  On Monday, Dec. 16, I called him on his cell phone at around 11 a.m. CST. He was very despondent and kept saying "My life's over, I'm done, I'll never see my kids again and I lost my job.  I'm not going back to jail."  He said that on Friday he hadn't seen his kids for 3-1/2 months and he just went crazy.  He told me he was on his way to get set up with an ankle bracelet for home monitoring.  He said he was driving his girlfriend's car (his was impounded after the Friday episode), and when I asked if she was with him he told me she was, so I thought he would be okay.  (I learned later that she wasn't with him and had merely loaned him her car to get his ankle bracelet).  I told him we all love him and we just want him to come back home to Minnesota.  He said they'll never let him out of Arizona now.  I tried to tell him that he can get through this, to take one day at a time.  Only later did I learn that he had already made up his mind to kill himself that day.  This was a few hours before the crash in Yuma.

"I just thank God that Garrett didn't succeed in killing himself or hurting anyone else.  He desperately needs help.  I want to thank all the law enforcement personnel who worked so hard to apprehend him safely, despite Garrett's mindset to end his life.  He has a very large family in Minnesota (father, stepmother, mother, brother and sister, aunts/uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews) who love him very much and wish he were home with us.  This is a nightmare that none of us can wake up from."

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

  • Mother of arrested ex-Tempe cop shares her son's strugglesMore>>

  • Sidebar: Garrett Peterson

    Wednesday, December 18 2013 5:43 PM EST2013-12-18 22:43:55 GMT
    Mother of arrested ex-Tempe cop shares her son's struggles (12/18/13) Father of ex-Tempe cop arrested twice in 3 days speaks (12/17/13) Tempe officer arrested after high-speed chase (12/14/13)More >
    Mother of arrested ex-Tempe cop shares her son's struggles (12/18/13) Father of ex-Tempe cop arrested twice in 3 days speaks (12/17/13) Tempe officer arrested after high-speed chase (12/14/13)More >
Powered by WorldNow
CBS 5
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2014, CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation), Phoenix, AZ and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service..