A Missoula police officer struck by a suspect’s car late Monday night is recovering from serious injuries in St. Patrick Hospital, while her partner – who shot at the fleeing suspect – has been placed on paid administrative leave during a mandatory internal review.
The 47-year-old parolee accused of running over Officer Deni Poling will not be charged until she’s released from the same hospital, where she’s being treated for a wound to her arm, according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the incident.
The woman, Dawnette Eaton, is being held under guard at St. Patrick, Missoula County Sheriff’s Detective Jason Johnson said Tuesday. It’s standard procedure not to charge a hospitalized suspect until the person is released into custody.
“Detectives and the County Attorney’s Office are working to finalize which charges will be filed,” he said.
Poling had surgery at St. Patrick Hospital late Monday night “for serious injuries sustained when the vehicle apparently knocked her to the ground and drove over her while trying to leave the scene,” according to police Capt. Scott Hoffman.
Police were called to the McDonald’s on East Broadway at about 9:30 p.m. to investigate a report that Eaton, a wanted parolee, was there, according to police. As they attempted to identify the woman, she put her red Pontiac Grand Prix in gear and reversed, hitting Poling, Hoffman said.
“She’s hurt pretty bad. She was drug underneath the vehicle,” said Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Rio, who was interviewed at the scene.
In a release Tuesday, Hoffman wrote that Lt. Rich Stepper “drew his weapon and fired one shot at the suspect to stop the driver from causing further injury to Poling or himself.” The suspect fled while Stepper summoned aid, Hoffman said.
“It’s the thing that you hope never happens,” Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir said at a news conference late Monday night. “You don’t like to see any member of the police department have to use deadly force, nor do you want to see deadly forced used against the officers.”
Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen located the Grand Prix a few blocks away, Johnson said.
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As for Eaton, “a friend came and picked her up and took her to the house where she was found,” Johnson said.
Eaton was arrested early Tuesday at an apartment complex near Hillview Way after police were led there by a tip. Johnson said the friend who allegedly gave Eaton a ride could also face charges.
“She knowingly went to the aid of a friend running from law enforcement,” he said.
The sheriff’s office planned to execute search warrants in Eaton’s home and her car, he said. “We’ll be looking for bloody clothing, things like that,” he said. “And there are believed to be some narcotics in the apartment where she was arrested.”
Eaton, he said, “is no stranger to Missoula police.”
In 1993, Eaton was sentenced to five years in the Montana State Prison on a drug conviction in Silver Bow County. In 2003, she was sentenced to two years for theft in Missoula County and two for forgery in Gallatin County.
Police department policy requires an internal review by the Office of Professional Standards whenever an officer is involved in a shooting. That review could take up to a week to complete, Hoffman said. The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office will investigate Eaton’s conduct.
Poling, a former sheriff’s office detention officer, has served 6 1/2 years with the Missoula Police Department. Stepper is a 21-year veteran.
The department thanked the public for its concern for both officers’ welfare, as well as for tips that led to Eaton’s arrest.