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Report: Utah trooper strikes woman in head after traffic stop

From Rick Martin, CNN
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Trooper on leave after hitting woman
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trooper's report: "I delivered three close hand strikes to her head"
  • He wrote that the woman was still trying to escape after evading authorities
  • The woman was arrested on suspicion of DUI, eluding police and other offenses
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(CNN) -- A Utah Highway Patrol trooper is under investigation after a video showed him punching a woman several times during a traffic stop, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety said.

A dashboard camera captured footage of Sgt. Andrew Davenport punching 53-year-old Darla Wright in August.

Davenport is on paid administrative leave, said Brian Hyer, spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Wright was speeding in Ogden when officers tried to pull her over, authorities said late Saturday. According to an incident report, the driver evaded police, and a chase ensued. Authorities stopped the woman by trapping her car between two vehicles.

"The suspect was still trying to escape, she had the accelerator floored and engine revving in an attempt to push our vehicles out of the way," Davenport wrote in an incident report.

Davenport said Wright would not roll down her window and gripped on the steering wheel.

On the video, Davenport is seen breaking the driver's side window, reaching into the car and repeatedly punching the woman.

"She refused to comply with commands to give us her hands," Davenport wrote. "Due to my close proximity to the suspect and my experience with Taser failure at such close distances, I delivered three close hand strikes to her head in an attempt to gain compliance with our commands. I did this to distract and stun her and to stop her from trying to drive off and strike our vehicles or possibly run us over. The strikes worked and we were able to grab her hands."

Hyer said investigations involve "multiple layers of reviews." It is unclear when the reviews might be completed.

"The Sgt. Davenport investigation is a personnel matter, and I am limited at what I can say," Hyer said. "There have been several reviews and an investigation, and right now we have a pending personnel matter."

Hyer confirmed to CNN that Davenport is a cousin of Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner D. Lance Davenport, but police say the relationship will not affect the case.

Hyer said the commissioner told him he believes in doing the right thing.

"The commissioner expects all of his employees to be held accountable for his or her actions," Hyer said. "There is a relationship between Commissioner Davenport and Sgt. Davenport, but that's it. It has no bearing on this case."

CNN attempted to reach Sgt. Davenport, but the Department of Public Safety is not allowing him to speak, Hyer said.

The driver was eventually taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence, eluding police, reckless driving, assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.