By Libor Jany Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

FARIBAULT COUNTY, Minn. — Felony charges have been lodged against two Wisconsin men accused of fleeing a traffic stop in Faribault County last week, with the suspects allegedly dragging a state trooper with their SUV, punching him as he clung to the driver’s side door and sending him tumbling onto a highway.

The trooper sustained “substantial” injuries, according to authorities.

The driver of the SUV, Montrell Smith, 29, and passenger Anthony Enriquez, 28, both of Milwaukee, were each charged with fleeing police, third-degree assault and fifth-degree drug possession, according to criminal complaints filed on Christmas Eve. Both men waived extradition and are set to make their first court appearances Monday in the courtroom of Faribault County Judge Troy Timmerman.

The injured trooper, Doug Rauenhorst, was taken to a hospital after the incident and later released.

The Dec. 20 incident started when Rauenhorst pulled over the men’s Jeep Cherokee on Interstate 90 east of Blue Earth and west of Hwy. 254 for a traffic violation, authorities say.

Another trooper, identified in the complaints only by his initials J.R., also responded to the scene.

Suspecting the pair of smuggling drugs, the two troopers approached the SUV on opposite sides, with Rauenhorst sidling up to the driver’s side door, the complaints say.

But, authorities say, as the other trooper opened the passenger door and Enriquez started to get out, Smith suddenly stepped on the gas, causing the Jeep to lurch forward with Rauenhorst hanging on.

As the Jeep headed east, Smith ignored the trooper’s commands to pull over and batted away his hand and started punching Rauenhorst as the trooper tried to shift the vehicle into park, authorities said.

“Smith and Enriquez were successful in removing [Rauenhorst] from the vehicle while driving on the interstate,” the complaints read. Rauenhorst “fell out of the Jeep into the traffic lanes sustaining substantial bodily harm.”

A brief chase ensued but was called off in neighboring Freeborn County due to safety concerns, authorities said. The Jeep was later found abandoned in a parking lot in the town of Albert Lea. The two suspects were arrested without incident in a nearby business, authorities said.

Nearly 16 pounds of marijuana was recovered from vehicle’s escape path, authorities said.

A message left Wednesday afternoon for Enriquez’s public defender wasn’t immediately returned. No attorney could be located in court records for Smith.

———

©2018 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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