Man police believe is innocent becomes victim of vigilante justice

VIDEO: Man becomes victim of vigilante justice

ABERDEEN, Wash. — Investigators with the Aberdeen Police Department say they arrested three people who assaulted a man while thinking they were fighting crime.

Earlier this week, investigators say the suspects, two men and a woman, were burglarized at 600 N B St. They were able to chase down two burglars and held them until police arrived.

The burglars told the suspects that a third man, Dale Peterson, was involved in the burglary. Instead of telling police, investigators say the suspects found Peterson through OfferUp, an app that allows users to buy and sell items. Peterson was selling a phone and the suspects offered to buy it.

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According to police, the suspects eventually lured Peterson to their home where they tied his hands and beat him. He suffered multiple wounds and had an imprint of a gun on his forehead after being pistol whipped.

Peterson spoke only to KIRO 7 about what happened.

"I absolutely had 100 percent no idea what was going on," he said, "I told them I didn't do it over and over again and begged."

Investigators believe Peterson is innocent. However, the suspects were convinced he was involved in the burglary. Peterson says he was almost killed because of the misunderstanding.

"The way the guy looked when he was trying to cock his gun and it jammed," Peterson explains. "He got mad at me because he couldn't knock me out so he just kept beating me even harder with the bat. I thought this is it, you know?"

The suspects called 911 after beating Peterson to report that they caught a burglary suspect, said Officer George Kelly with Aberdeen police.

"The person who was calling said that someone was involved in a burglary from the night before and was zip-tied to the porch," he said. "They took it upon themselves to basically exact vengeance."

Peterson doesn't think he would be alive had the suspects not called police. He says he was relieved to see Kelly, who found the victim covered in blood with his hands tied behind his back.

"It's the first time in my life that I felt that much of a pure sense of relief," Peterson says. "It was the most terrifying feeling I've ever felt in my life."

The suspects were arrested on charges that include assault, unlawful imprisonment, robbery and felony possession of a firearm.

Aberdeen police say they've never seen a case quite like this before.

"The suspects were pretty surprised that they were taken into custody," Kelly said.

Peterson's girlfriend created an online fundraiser to help pay for medical expenses: