May 3, 2010 11:02 PM by Jeannette Hynes
The El Paso County Sheriff's deputy who was dragged alongside a car Saturday night is recovering from his injuries at home, and should be back to work soon, according to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
In the meantime, the Sheriff's Office has started an internal inquiry into the incident.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office says Deputy Chris DeStefano was working a DUI saturation patrol in Security Saturday night when he clocked an SUV going 46 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone. The deputy turned on his lights and followed the SUV as it made two quick turns and finally stopped on Rosemont Drive.
Sheriff Maketa says DeStefano tried to call in his location and the license plate over the two-way radio, but kept getting a busy signal.
The Sheriff's Office says DeStefano then approached the driver and noticed the vehicle rolling forward. DeStefano grabbed the driver's shirt and ordered him to stop the car and turn off the engine. Instead, the driver kept moving, even increasing his speed, with DeStefano being dragged beside the car. DeStefano did hit the man to try to get him to stop the SUV.
DeStefano was dragged 40 feet and suffered a concussion. He has a fractured facial bone, dislocated finger, multiple stitches on his head and face, and several cuts and bruises.
Maketa says the Sheriff's Office will look into patrol training and possible technical problems for the reason DeStefano couldn't get a license plated called into the dispatch center.
"Is this becoming a common practice, because if it is, it's a dangerous practice and this should be a lesson," says Maketa.
Maketa says he talked with DeStefano and says DeStefano remembers much more about the stop today than he did immediately after the incident happened. Maketa says DeStefano is an experience patrol deputy. Maketa says he doesn't see DeStefano facing any disciplinary action, just a lot of teasing from his co-workers.
"I am concerned about people being quick to judge him, says Maketa. "Sometimes they'll [computer/radio] will go out."
It is standard procedure for a deputy to communicate his or her location and a license plate number during a traffic stop, either verbally or from computers in their patrol cars. Maketa says he wants to make sure all systems are in place and working, from policy to training to technology.
The Sheriff's Office is still looking for the vehicle involved in the incident. It is described as a small, black sport utility vehicle with no visible damage and Colorado license plates.
The driver of the vehicle could face charges as serious as attempted murder to lesseer charges like speeding and leaving the scene of an accident.