Jonathan Peters Murder In Arizona Mystifies Police

11/30/2012 06:49 pm ET
  • David Lohr Senior Crime Reporter, The Huffington Post

The family of an 18-year-old Arizona man who was shot and killed by a stray bullet while driving to a Phoenix-area McDonald's is desperately hoping someone will come forward with information.

"You never imagine -– never think about losing one of your children. It's such a difficult thing to deal with and it has really tested my faith," Jonathan Ryan Peters' father, Daniel Peters, told The Huffington Post. "Somebody out there knows something and we just need them to come forward and help us."

Peters believes his son was the unintended victim of gunfire from a local gang who mistakenly thought his son was part of a rival gang -- either that, or "he was killed for some sort of gang initiation," Peters said.

The shooting that turned the Peters family's life upside down occurred on June 2, in the area of 75th Ave. and Thomas Road in Phoenix. Peters' father said the neighborhood has seen an increase in crime over the last several years and it is not uncommon to hear the sound of gunfire echoing off buildings.

Jonathan Ryan Peters was shot at 3 a.m. as he was driving to McDonald's. Two cousins were accompanying him in his maroon 1995 Honda Accord. The trio had been to the fast food chain earlier that morning and was returning after they discovered their order was incomplete.

As he drove towards the restaurant, Peters was hit by two bullets after an unknown shooter fired at least nine shots at his vehicle.

"The first bullet went through the passenger seat where one of his cousins was seated and got him in the side," Daniel Peters said. "The other bullet went through the passenger rear-door window and got him in the temple."

Jonathan Peters immediately lost consciousness when the bullet hit him in the head. His leg stiffened and his foot pushed the gas, sending the vehicle speeding down the road.

"I turned and looked at Jonathan, I seen the hole in his head. His head fell back and there was just blood coming out and blood all over his face. I was just freaking out, I didn't know what to do," Peters' cousin, who did not wish to be identified, told Phoenix's ABC 15.

"I was like, we're still driving, the car is still going and I told [my sister] to push the brakes and she pulled the emergency brake and the car started swerving and we almost crashed into the light post, but I grabbed the steering wheel," Peters' cousin said.

After authorities arrived on the scene, they heard more gunshots and responded to a second scene where they questioned three men, but no charges were filed.

Peters was taken to a nearby hospital and was admitted in extremely critical condition. According to his father, he never regained consciousness.

"The doctors said the bullet that struck him in the head did a lot of damage," Daniel Peters told HuffPost. "They did some tests to see if there was even a chance for him to come back and they pronounced him brain dead that next day."

Jonathan Peters' family donated their son’s organs to the donor network. The teenager was laid to rest the following week.

JONATHAN PETERS' PHOTOS: (Story Continues Below)

Jonathan Peters

A Buckeye High School graduate who played football and basketball, Jonathan Peters had been staying with his grandmother at the time of his death so that it was easier to travel to work. According to his father, Jonathan held two jobs -- one at a Goodwill store and another at a local warehouse. His father said Jonathan was the middle child of five children.

"As a father, you don't have favorites, you love them all the same," Daniel Peters said. "But Jonathan was like my right hand. He was always beside me, always asking questions, always there with me."

Authorities recovered several 9mm bullet casings at the scene of the shooting. Investigators ran ballistic tests on the casings and the bullets recovered from Peters, but have yet to comment on what, if anything, they have learned.

A high school situated across the street from where the shooting occurred had three surveillance cameras pointed in the direction of the shooting. However, two of the cameras were not operational.

"The furthest camera caught a visual of the shooting," Daniel Peters said. "The video shows three Hispanic males running after the vehicle. The police have not released the video yet. It was really grainy and they are trying to get it cleaned up."

Authorities also recovered a blood-stained jacket in the area of the shooting, but it remains unclear if it is connected to the homicide.

The only other clue to the shooting is a 911 call police received from an unknown witness.

"A 911 caller gave the same description of the Hispanic men that the video shows, but the witness left one number, called from another, and neither number was any good. So police are trying to subpoena Sprint to find more information about the call. They haven't shared any more information with me on that so I don't know where it stands right now," Peters said.

The Phoenix Police Department did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday.

A $1,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder of Jonathan Peters. Anyone with information is being asked to call 480-948-6377 or visit silentwitness.org.

"Phoenix is such a big town, I don't know how much attention my son's case actually gets," Peters said. "Unfortunately, he is just one of many that these things happen to. We can't get him back, but we would like to see someone brought to justice for his murder."

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