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Mahnomen County Deputy Chad Peterson is Minnesota Police Officer of the Year

On Feb. 18, Mahnomen County Sheriff's Deputy Chad Peterson had just finished his shift when his good friend and partner, Chris Dewey, headed out on a 4 a.m. call on a suspected drunken driver.

Instead of going home after his overnight shift, Peterson went back out on patrol to back up Dewey.

The two found a car abandoned in a ditch and split up to investigate, interviewing witnesses and patrolling the area. Then Peterson heard gunshots back near the abandoned car, where a witness had reported gunfire earlier. He couldn't reach Dewey on his radio. He returned to the car and found Dewey critically wounded, shot in the head and abdomen, lying in a driveway nearby.

Peterson's call for medical attention likely saved his partner's life.

Now, Dewey is moving toward recovery, and Peterson this week was named Minnesota Police Officer of the Year.

Other deputies in his tight-knit, 13-member department nominated him. Sheriff Doug Krier called Peterson's work ethic a key factor that day.

'He's going to be there'

Peterson stayed at the scene as the day unfolded, and Dewey's shooting led to a nine-hour standoff with two suspects, who finally were arrested.

"He will stick around for his partners, and that's what he did that night with Dewey," Krier said. "That is typical of him. Somebody needs some help, he's going to be there for his partners."

Former police officer Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which awards the honor, said Peterson acted coolly under pressure to aid his partner and control a crime scene.

"All in all, it's because of his quick action and alertness and his ability to remain calm that I think ultimately probably saved Dewey's life and led to the capture of these two suspects," Flaherty said.

From an intensive care unit in Denver, where her husband will have another surgery Friday to remedy complications from the shooting before heading back to a nearby rehabilitation facility, Emily Dewey said Peterson deserves recognition.

"Chad's a very unassuming man and would never want to take credit for saving Chris' life, but he did, whether he wants to admit it or not," she said. "If it weren't for him, my husband wouldn't be alive."

Krier said Peterson says he was simply doing his job and prefers to stay away from news media attention.

The circumstances Peterson faced that morning are among the worst a police officer can imagine, Flaherty said.

"I never had to fear for my partner's life after hearing gunshots," Flaherty said. "What Deputy Peterson went through is like the worst horror that a policeman could ever encounter."