Casper police arrested a man Tuesday evening on suspicion of forcing his girlfriend into his van, choking her and refusing to stop for police.
Police received multiple reports about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday from people who saw a man, later identified as Damon Flanagan, force a woman into his van in the 1200 block of South Cedar Street. One of the people who called 911 said that they saw a man hit the woman multiple times before picking her up and putting her in the van, according to an arrest affidavit.
Police located the van about 45 minutes later near the Sunrise Shopping Center. Flanagan initially stopped when an officer pulled him over and the officer saw a woman banging on the rear window of the van and screaming for help, the affidavit states.
But when the officer approached the driver’s door, Flanagan drove away. Police followed the van as it traveled north on Poplar Street for about four blocks at speeds between 25 and 30 miles per hour, Sgt. Dan Dundas said Wednesday morning.
Flanagan then stopped the van and was forcefully removed from the driver’s seat when he refused to comply with officers’ orders to get out of the vehicle, according to the affidavit. Officers also believed that Flanagan was under the influence of a “central nervous stimulant” at the time he was taken into custody.
The woman, who was in a dating relationship with Flanagan, was transported to Wyoming Medical Center, where she was treated for minor injuries.
In an interview with investigators, Flanagan said that he and the woman had been dating for 11 years and that he was worried about her mental health. Flanagan said that he, the woman and the woman’s brother-in-law were working on the lawn that day when he and the woman began to argue, according to the affidavit. He said that she had drank “a significant amount” of alcohol earlier that day and he decided to take the woman to Wyoming Behavioral Institute, a mental health hospital, so that she could get help.
He said that the woman then began to grab at his neck and scratch him before making suicidal statements, the affidavit states. Flanagan said that he didn’t want the woman to hurt herself and physically placed her in the van so that he could take her to the mental health facility. The woman’s brother-in-law drove the van at first and Flanagan said that at one point he held the woman down by her neck so she would stop attacking him.
Later in the ride, the brother-in-law said he no longer wanted to drive, stopped the car and left. Flanagan then got into the driver’s seat.
He said he later noticed a police car following him and pulled over after driving a few more blocks, according to the affidavit.
The woman told police that she had been planning to leave Casper and move to another state so that she could get away from Flanagan. She said that the two began fighting earlier that day and was unclear whether she got in the van of her own will or was forced, the affidavit states.
The woman said that she was never suicidal and that Flanagan hadn’t hit her, but did hold her down and choke her at various times during the drive. She said that at one point she was foaming from the mouth and throwing up from being choked.
The woman said that Flanagan drove them both up Casper Mountain and made threats that he would kill both of them, according to the affidavit. She said that when she saw police cars following the van she felt relieved because she believed she was going to die.
After interviews were complete, police arrested Flanagan on suspicion of kidnapping, strangulation of a household member, eluding law enforcement and interference with a police officer as well as three outstanding warrants. Flanagan will be formally charged Wednesday afternoon at a hearing in Natrona County Circuit Court.