An American Peace Corps employee in Tanzania killed a mother of three and injured two others in a series of crashes in 2019 after a night of drinking.
USA TODAY has been unearthing documents and accounts of the incident involving high-ranking Peace Corps employee John Peterson. Within hours of the incident, the American was rushed onto a plane by the Peace Corps and U.S. Embassy staff and out of the country. Tanzanian and U.S. authorities never filed charges against Peterson.
Peterson was suspended from his duties after causing the death overseas but remained on the payroll for more than a year before he resigned.
USA TODAY has interviewed dozens of sources familiar with the Aug. 24, 2019 incident, the fallout and the call for reform. Since USA TODAY published its exclusive report in December, former Peace Corps members have called for change at the agency and raised thousands of dollars for the deceased woman’s family.
The newspaper has filed more than 40 Freedom of Information Act requests about what happened in Tanzania and continues to probe key decisions about Peterson’s treatment.
We invite you to come back to this page and stay connected as we peel back layers of this tragic episode about the Peace Corps’ aspirational mission of promoting “world peace and friendship” and new questions about whether those in charge of fulfilling that promise have done so at the expense of the communities they and the agency’s volunteers are meant to serve.
Records obtained by USA TODAY show U.S. taxpayers paid Peterson more than $258,000 while he was on leave and under investigation after killing a Tanzanian woman, Rabia Issa, in a 2019 hit-and-run. The Peace Corps paid Issa’s family about $13,000, despite a federal law that allows the agency to settle such claims for up to $20,000.
USA TODAY investigation: Your tax dollars paid a Peace Corps worker $258,000 after he killed a woman
Peterson left Tanzania for medical care the same day he killed a woman with his car. USA TODAY found staff of the U.S. State Department have been closely involved in the case, including helping arrange for Peterson’s departure from the country and investigating the incident alongside the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General.
USA TODAY Investigation: State Department silent on evacuation of Peace Corps employee who killed woman in Africa
Peterson was never charged after striking and killing a Tanzanian woman with his car, an incident that happened after he brought a sex worker to his home. But USA TODAY confirmed that the former Peace Corps employee is the subject of a federal watchdog’s inquiry into whether he had a history of hiring sex workers overseas.
USA TODAY Investigation: With questions about sex workers, feds investigate former Peace Corps employee John Peterson
After USA TODAY revealed details of the 2019 incident in which Peterson killed Issa, hundreds of people expressed anger over Peterson’s actions and the Peace Corps’s response. To families who’ve found themselves in similar situations as Issa’s relatives, it was a familiar feeling, one woman said, to see someone “swept under the carpet. Like their life didn’t matter. Like we mean absolutely nothing in comparison to the U.S. government.”
USA TODAY Investigation: ‘They’ve covered it up’: Backlash swells over Peace Corps worker’s involvement in death in Africa
An American Peace Corps employee in Tanzania in 2019 killed a mother of three and injured two others in a series of car crashes that began after he left a bar where he had been drinking and brought a sex worker back to his government-leased home. The employee was medevaced from the country the same day and never faced charges.
USA TODAY Investigation: A Peace Corps worker killed a woman in Africa. The US helped him escape prosecution.