WOODSTOCK – The sound of gunfire rang out in the courtroom Wednesday afternoon as prosecutors played scanner traffic in the trial for a man accused of shooting at three deputies.
On the recording, a breathless McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Khalia Satkiewicz desperately sought help.
“Dwight’s down. I myself have been hit,” she told dispatch.
The criminal trial for Peters began this week in McHenry County. Prosecutors ended their case late Wednesday by playing a two-hour recording of Peters’ police interrogation.
In it, Peters said he fears police, who have “been beatin’ me down my whole life.”
Over and over, he said he didn’t know it was police at his front door when he began shooting. He thought someone was breaking in. It’s the same argument his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Rick Behof, made in his opening statement.
But later, Peters said that he knew that deputies would be on both sides of the front door he fired through. He said if he wanted to kill them, he could have.
“I’m a [expletive] good shot,” he said.
Peters told McHenry County Sheriff Detective Tom Jonites that once he realized it was police he shot, he fled the area. Peters said he was trying to get to a church to turn himself in because he was afraid police would shoot him.
“I didn’t want to get shot. Not without a pistol,” Peters said, laughing.
Peters led authorities on a 16-hour manhunt before he was captured about six miles away.
According to testimony from the deputies, Peters yelled “Airborne!” and “I’m a U.S. Army paratrooper. I hope you’re ready to die today” before firing.
Peters told Jonites he joined the U.S. Army at 17 years old and that he saw combat in El Salvador and Panama. On the video, Jonites confronted Peters with his military records that showed Peters served three years and never left the United States.
The trial has been dramatic from the start. After jury selection was all but finished, Peters made inflammatory statements about his attorneys and prosecutors. He said he didn’t have a say in the selection of jurors and hadn’t seen the discovery in his case. He said the prosecutors putting his 12-year-old daughter on the witness list was an act of “pure vindictiveness.”
Then after a day of testimony, Peters began Wednesday morning by writhing in a wheelchair, screaming out in pain and begging to see a doctor. A nurse at the jail testified that there was no medical reason for his acting that way.
The judge questioned the nurse treating Peters at the jail as he carried on, yelling out for a doctor and interrupting the judge.
“Mr. Peters, shut up,” McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather said. “You hear me? I don’t buy what you are doing. I don’t buy it all.”
Eventually, Prather said his behavior should be taken as a waiver of his right to face a jury.
“I have a right to see a doctor,” he shouted back.
Prather then sent him back to the jail, and when jurors were brought back into the courtroom, the judge advised them to not draw any inference from his absence and the trial continued without him.
By the afternoon, Peters was dressed in street clothes and back in the courtroom. Outside of the presence of the jury, prosecutors played surveillance footage from the jail that showed Peters getting up at 6:30 a.m., and walking on crutches to eat breakfast. About an hour later, body cam footage from a corrections officer showed Peters on the floor of his cell, pants around his ankles and crying out in pain.
The trial will continue Thursday with the defense case. It’s unclear whether Peters will testify.
• Editor's note. This story has been corrected from its original version. Detective Tom Jonites' name was misspelled in an earlier version.