WAGONER – A man who shot and killed three teenagers after they forced their way into his Wagoner County home last week will not be facing punishment, officials confirmed Monday.
Formal charges also have been filed against the woman accused of dropping off her accomplices at the residence and planning the botched burglary.
Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott hosted a joint news conference with Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp to announce the decision to not charge the shooter, 22-year-old Zach Peters.
After a weeklong investigation into the shooting, Thorp said his office determined Peters acted justifiably “when he used deadly force to defend his home” against Maxwell Cook, 18; Jacob Redfearn, 18; and Jaykob Woodruff, 16.
“Upon my review of (Peters’ interview with investigators), it appears that he was in fear for his life as he perceived the intruders and discharged his weapon at the intruders,” Thorp wrote in a letter to the sheriff.
The letter cites Oklahoma’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which protects defensive-force users if their target unlawfully and forcibly entered their home. Thorp said declining to press charges against Peters was not a difficult decision.
The shooting occurred March 27, when three individuals dressed in all black, including masks and gloves, kicked in the back glass door of the Peters family home in the 9100 block of Clearview Drive. The address is just east of Broken Arrow city limits in Wagoner County.
Peters, the son of the homeowner, reportedly heard the commotion from the break-in while he slept in his room and grabbed an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. He opened fire during a confrontation with the intruders, striking all three. Two died in the kitchen area while the third managed to exit the home and succumbed to his injuries in the driveway.
Peters then barricaded himself in his room and called 911. Responding deputies found a knife on one of the deceased and a set of brass knuckles on a second.
Authorities initially reported that Peters’ father also was home during the altercation but said Monday that he was at work. Peters voluntarily went to the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office to provide an official statement, which the District Attorney’s Office used to help make its decision.
Just hours into the investigation, Elizabeth Rodriguez – the 21-year-old girlfriend of Cook who confessed to being the getaway driver – turned herself in at the Broken Arrow Police Department. She was arrested on three complaints of first-degree murder and booked into the Wagoner County Jail, where she remains without bond.
Rodriguez was formally charged Monday with the three murder counts, in addition to one count of first-degree burglary and another for second-degree burglary. She is expected to appear in court Wednesday to establish a date for a preliminary hearing.
Despite not pulling the trigger, Rodriguez is being charged with murder because the deaths of her accomplices occurred while she was in commission of a felony, authorities said.
Elliott reiterated during the conference that Rodriguez was familiar with the Peters home and chose it to target because she believed there were valuables inside. The group actually targeted the property earlier that day, the first time breaking into the unattached garage and stealing liquor and some electronic equipment.
The decision was soon made to search the main home for more valuables, Elliott said. He would not say how much time passed between the two break-ins, but clarified they occurred the same day.
The investigation also revealed the group had reportedly cased other houses in the neighborhood, which has experienced multiple burglaries in recent months, before deciding on the Peters residence.
Elliott said he hopes the tragedy will teach other youths a lesson that life is about making the right choices.
“Consider your choices very carefully before you act on them because if you make a poor choice, you could find yourself in a bad situation,” he said.
“The facts in this case are very solid. These individuals chose to go to this house. They chose to break into this house. They chose to forcibly enter into their house. And because of those decisions, they lost their lives.”
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