The Virginia Beach man charged with killing two people when his van collided with their car after running a red light in downtown Norfolk has a record of drunken-driving charges that dates to 1976.
Arnold O. Peterson was stopped 19 years ago on his first DUI charge at the Brambleton Avenue exit on Interstate 264. He took the same exit Saturday night during a 15-mile chase by police that ended with the collision that killed a Richmond lawyer and a Virginia Beach woman.
Mike Goodove, chairman of the Southside chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, called Peterson’s history of DUIs “shocking and appalling.”
“He is looking at 40 years if he is charged with aggravated manslaughter, and he is a man who deserves to be incarcerated,” Goodove said.
Killed were William L. Rosbe, a 50-year-old attorney who survived more than 200 missions in Vietnam as a Marine pilot, and 40-year-old Terrie G. Timms of the 1500 block of Southwick Road in Virginia Beach.
Peterson, 47, appeared Monday morning in Norfolk General District Court. Prosecutors said they would pursue two charges of involuntary manslaughter. They decided not to immediately prosecute drunk-driving charges for fear of double-jeopardy. The arraignment was continued until Feb. 8.
Additional charges are pending against Peterson in Virginia Beach, including reckless driving and a felony charge of eluding police,said Virginia Beach Police Department spokesman Mike Carey.
Meanwhile, authorities from three law-enforcement agencies involved in the chase defended their policies that govern high-speed pursuits, claiming that no violations by participating officers were committed Saturday night.
“I’ve gone over the policy any number of times in the past and again today,” said Lt. Col. Basil Belsches, deputy superintendent of the Virginia State Police. “And I can’t see where we went wrong.”
Belsches said the review of the incident will include a look at all relevant policies.
Carey and Norfolk Police Department spokesman Larry Hill said their agencies also are conducting reviews that will include pursuit policies, but both said their officers acted properly.
Carey said the chase was started by Virginia Beach officers, who picked up Peterson’s van on radar as it was speeding on International Parkway about 11:15 p.m.
“The vehicle was considered to be driving recklessly,” Carey said. “It was not a bald tire or a headlight out.”
Hill said Norfolk officers joined in when the car entered their city.
“Here is a man who had DUI convictions,” said Hill. “If you let him go, this drunk driver could go on down the road and kill someone else. It is a no-win situation.”
Officers in both cities performed secondary roles once state troopers took control of the chase near the Newtown Road exit of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk Expressway at the request of Virginia Beach police, Belsches said.
A state police car, which carried a camera that videotaped the chase, picked up the pursuit and followed Peterson on the expressway at speeds reaching 80 mph onto Interstate 264, where another state police cruiser joined in, Belsches said.
Both cruisers followed Peterson’s van when it exited I-264 at Brambleton Avenue. The state police cars remained about a block behind Peterson, Belsches said, as he raced along Brambleton, running red lights at speeds that reached 50 mph. Peterson then maneuvered his van onto the oncoming traffic lane on Brambleton Avenue. The street is divided by a concrete median.
Police first reported incorrectly Saturday that Rosbe and Timms apparently were leaving the opera in Rosbe’s 1983 BMW when the accident occurred. There was no opera Saturday night, but there was a Crystal Gayle concert at Chrysler Hall.
Hill said Rosbe’s car flipped several times because Peterson’s van hit the car broadside and pushed it against a curb. The curb, Hill said, acted “just like someone sticking their foot out and tripping you.”
Police said Peterson, of the 2100 block of Beckman Cove, was not seriously injured.
The van was owned by Nansemond Heating and Cooling. Peterson was not authorized to drive the vehicle, said the company’s owner, Grant Huneycutt.
During the chase, a representative of the company was called by police, who saw the company’s telephone number on the side of the van. The company representative said that the van was not supposed to be on the street.
“Arnie was not authorized to drive a company vehicle,” said Huneycutt. “He obtained this vehicle improperly.”
Before Norfolk police got involved, the troopers and Virginia Beach officers vigorously pursued the van in part because they mistakenly believed it might have been a vehicle stolen by youths involved in a Portsmouth-area robbery spree Saturday night.
Belsches said troopers involved in the chase also were acting under the impression that the van may have been stolen by the robbery suspects.
Portsmouth police arrested two teenagers on Sunday who are suspected in the string of robberies on Saturday in Portsmouth. Another teen was being sought Monday.
Peterson, who is being held in the Norfolk City Jail, was out on a $7,500 bond at the time of the accident for a DUI charge in Virginia Beach.
Carey said Virginia Beach police officers encountered Peterson at the intersection of Old Donation Parkway and First Colonial Road at 3:53 a.m. on Dec. 3. He also was charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and an unrelated domestic assault charge. He was to appear in court on the charges Feb. 27.
Peterson’s first DUI charge in Hampton Roads appears to have been in September of 1976 when he was stopped on Interstate 264 by the Virginia State Police.
He was stopped again less than a year later by Norfolk police on Llewellyn Avenue and charged with DUI. Both charges were levied before court records were computerized, and it was unclear if Peterson was found guilty.
However, records do show that in February of 1992 Peterson was convicted of DUI in Virginia Beach.
Peterson also has a reckless driving conviction in Chesapeake in 1991 and an improper driving conviction in Virginia Beach in 1994, court records show.
Both victims of Saturday’s accident were recently widowed. The survivors of Terrie Timms include three children. She also had three stepchildren whose natural mother is still alive.