View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

CORRECTION: Memorial set for man killed by deputies

Corrects spelling of "Ft. Benning"

Posted: February 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Steven Burke Pettersen


Coroner’s investigators were awaiting the results of toxicology tests to determine if drugs, alcohol or any other chemicals played a role in the death of Steven Burke Pettersen, who was shot dead by sheriff’s deputies Jan. 30 after allegedly advancing on them with a knife.

Meantime, family members scheduled a private memorial for the 47-year-old Canyon Country man this Saturday in Sylmar.

A medical examination of Pettersen’s body revealed his cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of his death to be homicide, coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said last week.

Toxicology test results are not expected for at least six weeks.

Pettersen was reported to be running in and out of traffic on Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country Jan. 30 waving a spear at passers-by and acting erratically, according to a Sheriff’s Department report.

Deputies responded to the scene and found Pettersen “behaving strangely,” according to the report. As they moved back toward their vehicle he reportedly advanced on them with a knife, at which point he was shot and killed.

Family members declined to be interviewed, but according to a published obituary notice Pettersen was born in Burbank and graduated from Hoover High School before joining the U.S. Army and serving with the 3rd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment at Ft. Benning in Georgia.

He also earned an Associate of Science degree from College of the Canyons, the obituary said.

Sandra Davidson, who described herself as Pettersen’s friend and former roommate, said he was not violent by nature and did not appear to be intoxicated the night of the shooting.

A private memorial service is scheduled for friends and family only at the Los Olivas Mobile Home Park in Sylmar at 11 a.m. Saturday, according to a woman contacted by phone at the park.
on Twitter


Unreal: Posted: February 11, 2014 6:59 a.m.

I have seen several issues with people with mental issues, and drug side effects being killed by Police or Sheriffs.

The homeless schizophrenic who was not armed, killed in LA last year (his father was a cop). He was calling for his dad to help him while he was being killed by huge cops on top of him hitting him in the face. Shame on the jury for finding them innocent.

The teenager with mental issues whose parents called police for an out of control kid who was unarmed, was shot while he was dog piled on and one officer said "we don't have time for this". This was another state but still the same issue.

The homeless old lady in LA a couple years ago who had I think it was a stick or something was shot and killed.

I am not saying that the Sheriffs who handled this call did not follow procedure. I am saying maybe the training and procedures when dealing with a vulnerable person with mental issues or on drugs needs to be looked at. These often are not hardened criminals but people in need of help not death. What if it was your kid who was slipped something at a party who was acting out? What if it was your 19 year old who suddenly started having schizophrenic hallucinations?

They should not be treated the same as a bank robber who points a gun at cops while fleeing. It is OK for cops to retreat while trying a different tact. People out of their mind should not be expected to “comply with commands”.

We also need to take another look at how the families of those with mental issues can get them the help they need so not so many are left to wander the streets. We don't have to warehouse them but we don't have to abandon them either.

To the family of this man, I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like he did a lot right in his life and I hope you are able to celebrate that. The comments on his Obituary in the Signal show a very loving man. And what a smile he dad! A much better picture then the one attached to this story. --edited.

17trillion: Posted: February 11, 2014 8:25 a.m.

I continue to question this homicide and I continue to point my disdain toward those that were cheering for his death. "Good riddance", I believe one poster stated. The fact that he served his country in the army also makes me even more sad.

ccboy: Posted: February 11, 2014 8:43 a.m.

@Unreal I agree it is a sad situation when anyone loses their life like this and contrary to what a lot of posters on here believe officers/deputies don't look to kill people. They are prepared to use what ever force is necessary but do not opt for deadly force as a first resort. Even people who need help whether it be with mental issues or drugs do bad things and hurt or even kill people. In situations where there are no threats to safety or life it is feasible for officers or deputies to take the time to evaluate and develop a plan to end things with as little as force needed. But in a case like this what would have happened if the deputies would have retreated and tried a differnt tact and the suspect would have started using the hockey stick/spear or knife on one of the people watching the incidnet or one stuck in their car. The sad fact is that there are bad people as well as people who need help who have mental issues or are using drugs and in some cases (especially when a weapon is involved) if officers or deputies hesitate to find out which one they are dealing with somebody could lose their life.

Unreal: Posted: February 11, 2014 9:05 a.m.

ccboy: I agree that sometimes there is nothing the officers can do and stopping the person with a bullet is the only way to go. I don't know whether this was the situation or not here.

I hope everything that could have been tried was done. How about a net that we can shoot over a person? I don't know, I just wish there was more that could be done.

Are the alternative options in the car with the deputies or do they have to go to their trunk? Maybe they need to be available for faster deployment. I just think that some brainstorming by the powers that be might help.

And when huge deputies dog pile a person they should not die from beating
and excessive use of a taser while deputies tell the person they are going to "F them up" like the officers in LA did with the homeless schizophrenic.

ccboy: Posted: February 11, 2014 9:15 a.m.

I agree with you on that, I think the incident you are talking about was the one in Fullerton where the officers were recently acquitted. I was not there but from video that was shown and some of the testimony I saw on the news, I would say the officers escalated that incidnet. As far as other options, tasers are usually carried on the deputy or officer but other less lethal weapons like bean bags are in the trunk.

CaseAndPoint: Posted: February 11, 2014 9:29 a.m.

That was very well said, Unreal. Thanks for bringing those facts to light and for showing compassion. This world needs more like you.

Unreal: Posted: February 11, 2014 10:46 a.m.

ccboy: Yeah, I consider anything "over the hill" as LA I guess.

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: February 11, 2014 11:42 a.m.

So... turns out this guy was a 47 year old father, college educated, and joined the U.S. Army serving as a Sergeant with the 3rd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment at Ft. Benning, GA.

We won't know before the toxicology results, but sounds like maybe he was dealing with mental illness, schizophrenia maybe? Hardly worth comments like "good riddance" or calling him a drugged-out nutcase.... or the most crass comment of all, actually blaming his parents for raising him to be this way. Do you people realize his family all live here and probably read the news stories. Don't you think his parents and family are in enough pain? You're gonna now blame his parents? Amazing....

Ohreally2: Posted: February 11, 2014 11:46 a.m.

Not so nice headline Signal. Writing "Killed by Deputies" communicates an assumption that a crime was committed and neither you or I know that as a fact. Let the investigation by all of the agencies finish and let's see what they conclude. Law Enforcement is not an easy job but I don't know any of them who enjoy pulling out their weapons let alone discharging it without just cause. The liability and questioning they endure afterward are very stressful, as this case shows us. Deputies are people too ( no, I'm not one) and they deserve the same "innocent until proven guilty" privilege we all do.

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: February 11, 2014 11:51 a.m.

Ohreally2: The cause of death was established as multiple gunshot wounds. Right or wrong, the deputies did in fact kill him, did they not? It is not any kind of admission of guilt here. If it wasn't their bullets, who was in the grassy knoll?

kimanthac: Posted: February 11, 2014 1:31 p.m.

Here we go again, enough already. He was armed. He was putting peoples lives in danger, and sorry but no one had time to give him a therapy session. They deputies did what they are trained to do, and if all you armchair cops think you can do better, join the academy.

17trillion: Posted: February 11, 2014 2:19 p.m.

"and sorry but no one had time to give him a therapy session."

Say that to his kids or better yet, how about some of his buddies tough guy!

"and if all you armchair cops think you can do better, join the academy."

Yea, because everyone knows cops are perfect. They never screw up. They never kill someone on accident. Nope, nothing to see here but a dead vet with 10 bullets in him because he had a knife.

The Signal's TOS prevents me from calling you what I think you are, but I'll let your imagination decide.

kimanthac: Posted: February 11, 2014 3:38 p.m.

I would be glad to talk to his family about it, 17trillion, and go ahead and sink so low to call me names. Name calling is a sign of stupidity. I have my opinion and your have yours.

17trillion: Posted: February 11, 2014 3:52 p.m.

Yea, sure you would. Nobody had their life in danger by this guy. You would think 10 highly trained professionals could have calmed the situation rather than shooting him 10 times. Oh, he was shot 10 times which probably means these guys fired at him a minimum of 25 times and probably more like 50 times.

How brave our men in blue are!

UsualSuspect: Posted: February 11, 2014 4:44 p.m.

The Deputies get a call, respond, and the guy advances with a knife. So many lives were changed in an instant.
My guess is there are some mental issues at play, and something I learned years ago, you can't apply rational thinking when someone is not thinking in a rational way. Unless you have dealt with the mentally ill, you will never know how irrational some can become, and how difficult it is dealing with them. Sometimes being rational has no impact on their actions.

kimanthac: Posted: February 11, 2014 7:17 p.m.

17trillion, not if they were a good shot.

kimanthac: Posted: February 11, 2014 7:22 p.m.

oh, and, 17trillion most cops don't ever shoot their guns in their career. It's pretty rare, so in order for them to do it, they had to have felt threatened. My father was a cop for 30 years, shot his gun once, and it was off duty. A gang member was beating an old lady trying to steal her purse in a parking garage. Maybe he should have tried to reason with him instead? And even though he knew it was what he had to do, it effected him, just like I'm sure this has effected the deputies that had to shoot this man.

DMeyer: Posted: February 12, 2014 10:14 p.m.

"How brave our men in blue are!"

17 trillion you do such a good job on pointing out how misinformed you truly are. Our deputies do not wear blue. Do you even live in Santa Clarita or do you just troll from place to place bashing on all of the cops? Just so you knows the deputies in this city and county wear green and tan uniforms. Reminds me of that Bugs Bunny quote......'what a maroon'....

On a separate note, my condolences to the family of this man, he had some very positive attributes and it's sad that his life had to end this way.

ohhyaa: Posted: February 12, 2014 6:44 a.m.

Unreal, I appreciate your compassion on issues regarding mental illness. You are also right in standing up against the abusive and excessive force that we saw in the Kelly Thomas case. How the jury found Cicinelli and Ramos not guilty is a mystery to me. That verdict really hurt LE, since most people didn't understand that they were prosecuted by their own Department. Where I feel you and I differ, is that I don't hold LE responsible for all of the broken systems. It's not their fault our mental health system has completely failed and it's certainly not their job to try to make a medical diagnosis while in the field. In the case of Kelly Thomas, he was visibly mentally handicapped. Even a kid could have picked up on that. The cops involved in his beating death should be in prison right now. As far as mental illness, I know a thing or two. My husband is the conservator of a mentally handicapped relative. He requires total supervision, to make sure he takes his medicine, since without it he is an arsonist. Even on his meds he's a handful. A few years ago he got pneumonia and went into the hospital. When the nurse went to put in his IV he became violent and physically assaulted her, knocking over medical equipment in the process. We were called and went to the hospital immediately and we authorized him to be strapped down in his bed. It's horrible to see a man switch between crying and begging like a child, then calling everyone mother f-er's and saying he's going to kill them, which given an opportunity he would do. Our LE has a tough job and most of them are dedicate to protecting and serving all of us. It's sad that they are so under appreciated. --edited.

17trillion: Posted: February 12, 2014 8:01 a.m.

""How brave our men in blue are!"

17 trillion you do such a good job on pointing out how misinformed you truly are. Our deputies do not wear blue. Do you even live in Santa Clarita or do you just troll from place to place bashing on all of the cops? Just so you knows the deputies in this city and county wear green and tan uniforms. Reminds me of that Bugs Bunny quote......'what a maroon'...."

It's a figure of speech. The irony of a of a simpleton calling me a maroon does not escape me Bugs! Next time I'll use small words and simple sentences and concepts for you.

ohhyaa: Posted: February 12, 2014 8:12 a.m.

17trillion, you also might want to refrain from over exaggerating, making irresponsible statements that 25 to 50 rounds were fired.

17trillion: Posted: February 12, 2014 8:54 a.m.

Oh, they shot him 10 times with 10 bullets? Wow, that kind of accuracy is would make even Han Solo envious.

I guess you've never shot a gun before ohhyaa. It's not like on TV and if less than 25 shots were fired, I would be shocked but course we'll never know will we? Oh no, we need to trust our men in and tan and be damned anyone who questions otherwise lest you be labeled a cop hater or, gasp, a maroon!


Unreal: Posted: February 12, 2014 9:40 a.m.

Are the alternative options in the car with the deputies or do they have to go to their trunk? Maybe they need to be available for faster deployment.

That question was in my earlier comment. I guess the only thing available quickly is the Taser. Everything else is in the trunk.

This should be looked and changed as the incidents where alternatives are needed are happening more often.

DMeyer: Posted: February 12, 2014 11:58 a.m.

Batons, tasers, and bean bag shotguns are all great tools that need to be available to law enforcement. Sometimes it's appropriate to use those tools, but there are times when the police need to bypass other force options and must resort to deadly force to immediately deal with a threat.

The law states that officers may resort to deadly force when they have a reasonable belief that their life or safety is in danger, or if the life and safety of other persons are in danger. It's as simple as that. That threshold was easily met in this situation.

Please see CA penal code section 835(a) and U.S. case law Graham v. Connor for clarification. These have been the standards on which police officers have been judged for decades. I think when we try and our keep our personal feelings out of the equation and just see it through the guidelines set forth by our laws it becomes much easier to comprehend.

stray: Posted: February 12, 2014 4:42 p.m.

@17trillion - "The Signal's TOS prevents me from calling you what I think you are"

Well, me thinks that YOU are a sheep! Reason is that when a sheep gets lost or confused, or both, they whine BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA....

After all, you do a lot of whining around here!

Go find your mommie!


17trillion: Posted: February 13, 2014 8:37 a.m.

I'm sure there was a point to that.

You need to be a registered user to post a comment. Please click here to register.

The Signal encourages readers to interact with one another, following the guidelines outlined in our Comment/Moderation Policy. Click here to read it.

To report offensive or inappropriate comments, e-mail The content posted from readers of does not necessarily represent the views of The Signal or Morris Multimedia. By submitting this form you agree to the terms and conditions listed above. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...