SANDY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A man is in jail tonight after punching a female Utah Highway Patrol trooper in the face during a routine traffic stop.
“At any moment, at any time, you never know what’s going to happen,” says Lt. Jeff Nigbur with the Utah Highway Patrol.
Tonight, 21 year-old Hailame Kaufusi sits in jail after troopers say he punched Trooper Mercadez Barrett in the face.
“The passenger [Kaufusi] she was trying to arrest kinda punched her kind of in the lower jaw and neck area. She kinda has a goose egg right there but she’s doing OK,” says Nigbur.
Near 90 S, 200 W in Sandy around 11:405 p.m. Wednesday Trooper Barrett pulled over a vehicle for an equipment violation. She and a Sandy police officer who arrived to assist approached the vehicle. Trooper Barrett smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and after speaking with the two men, she discovered Kaufusi had outstanding felony warrants.
“At which point our trooper and a Sandy City police officer attempted putting this man into handcuffs,” says Nigbur.
The man, according to UHP then pulled away and punched Barrett in the face.
“She’s not the biggest person in the world and maybe that’s why the suspect thought he could try to run and fight her,” added Lt. Nigbur.
The punch knocked her over but it didn’t knock her out. Kaufusi ran towards a field and Barrett along with the Sandy police officer pursued him. They were able to corner him in a field as back up arrived. Police then set up a containment area around the suspect. A West Jordan K-9 officer arrived on scene who tracked Kaufusi down in the field.
“The dog did bite the suspect,” said Nigbur.
Kaufusi was taken to the hospital and treated for bite wounds. He was later booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on several charges including possession with intent to produce a controlled substance, assault against a police officer, false information to a police officer, possession or use of a controlled substance, driving on a denied license, driving with a measurable controlled substance, use or possession of drugs, failure to stop on command, unlawful purchase or possession, no possession of a drivers license, and operating a motor vehicle without insurance.
With assaults on police officers happening more frequently, Trooper Nigbur is reminded why they approach every situation with caution. As we’ve seen in recent days, a minor traffic incident can turn into a dangerous situation.
“You never really know how people are going to react and that’s why it’s so dangerous. We have to go into these situations expecting the worst and being able to be in control of that situation,” added Lt. Nigbur.
Trooper Barrett has been with Utah Highway Patrol for five years and is also a member of the SWAT team.