Arlington Hts. man says ride offer to young girls misunderstood

Arlington Hts. man says ride offer to girls misunderstood

In retrospect, Rodney T. Peterson says he shouldn’t have stopped his car in a snowstorm March 2 and offered a ride to two teenage girls he didn’t know.

But the Arlington Heights man also believes Barrington police overreacted in charging him with disorderly conduct, then issuing a news release using his arrest to further drive home the Stranger Danger message.

The 33-year-old father of three, who said he is playing Jesus in an upcoming church dramatization of the Last Supper, said he offered the ride to the teens because they were not dressed for the cold, sloppy weather.

“I’ve helped people in the past by offering rides in extreme situations,” he said. “I don’t go around giving rides to everyone, but if there is a situation where someone is having difficulty due to the weather or other circumstances, then I do it.”

The 13-year-olds had gotten off the school bus and were walking on Prospect Avenue near Waverly Road about 3:15 p.m., when Peterson approached in his 2002 Lincoln and rolled down the window. He asked, “How far are you walking?” and “Do you need a ride home?” police said.

Police said the girls declined the offer and took down Peterson’s license plate number as he drove off. Once home they told their parents, who called Barrington police.

Barrington authorities issued a news release Wednesday commending the students for refusing the ride, getting the plate number and telling their parents quickly.

Peterson, of the 500 block of West Miner Street, then wrote a long comment on the Daily Herald’s online account of his arrest, explaining his actions. He also praised the girls.

“I do understand the concerns of the parents and the school, as I would do the same if I thought my children were at risk,” he wrote.

“Also, I applaud the two girls for their quick thinking. I failed to see the trouble my good intention would cause, my sincere apologies to the two teenage girls, their parents and the local school.”

Police at first ticketed Peterson with disorderly conduct under a provision of the municipal ordinance saying it’s a violation to “make any unreasonable or offensive act, utterance, gesture or display which, under the circumstances, creates a clear and present danger of a breach of peace or imminent threat of violence.”

Barrington Police Chief Jerry Libit said on Friday they added a second disorderly conduct citation, under a provision that it’s a violation to do “any act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and provoke, make or aid in making a breach of peace.”

Department officials listened to Peterson’s declaration of innocence but believe he left with a better understanding of why police believe his actual actions broke the law, Libit added.

And Peterson added a new online comment after the meeting: “The police handled this as best they could, and my frustrations only arose for the process and procedures that they have no other choice but to follow.”

Peterson, a former assistant bank manager who said he has never been convicted of any crime — an online records search on Friday turned up nothing — said he was in Barrington on March 2 to meet former co-workers for lunch.

He said that about a month ago, he offered a ride to the Arlington Heights train station to a stranger carrying a large backpack in the rain, and that he also recently drove a homeless man to his destination.

“It wouldn’t have mattered to me if they were male, female, their race or if they were young or old,” he said. “I felt compelled to help because they were walking in the nasty weather. I just failed to see that this good intention would have caused this much trouble.”

Ÿ Daily Herald staff writer Eric Peterson contributed to this report.

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