An off-duty S.C. Highway Patrol trooper who tried intervening in a domestic assault at a Rock Hill gas station Sunday was briefly dragged by a car after his hand became stuck in the driver’s side door. He pulled himself free after he hopped onto one of the vehicle’s running boards, police say.
Authorities are searching for the two suspects who jumped into the sport utility vehicle and took off while the trooper tried calling for police backup.
At about 4:30 p.m., Lance Cpl. Michael Shank, 39, was at the Murphy Express gas station off S.C. 161 when he witnessed a fight between a man, possibly in his early 20s and about 165 pounds, and a woman, possibly in her late 30s or early 40s with long blond hair, according to a Rock Hill Police report. The man, police reported, was hitting the woman.
Shank, who was dressed in civilian clothes, identified himself as a police officer and told the man to stay away from the woman, the report states. The man stood by the back of the car while Shank began using his cell phone to call for assistance from on-duty officers. The suspect continued to move around and eventually sat down in the SUV’s passenger seat. The victim sat in the driver’s seat, the report states, and turned on the ignition.
Shank warned the woman not to pull away, the report states. But as Shank spoke with the woman, the man said they needed to leave, the report states. The woman put the car in drive and took off. Shank’s right hand was caught in the driver’s side door and he was pulled along with the car.
Shank managed to jump onto one of the SUV’s running boards and rode it until he was able to free himself, the report states. Shank returned to his personal car, where his child had been waiting and watching, authorities say. He contacted Rock Hill Police and his supervisor about the incident.
Police photographed Shank’s injuries and a picture of the suspects’ gas receipt that Shank was able to obtain from the gas station, the report states. Police hope the time and information on the receipt might help them identify the suspects.
The vehicle is described as a white, late 1990s/early 2000s model Mitsubishi SUV with a South Carolina license plate, the report states. It’s unclear if the gas station’s surveillance cameras captured the incident on video.
Off-duty law enforcement officers are not required to act if they observe an incident, but there's a common understanding among police officers placed in those situations, Rock Hill Police spokesman Mark Bollinger.
Typically, off-duty officers intervene in situations if they think they might be able to make an arrest easily, or they are working to control a situation in which people might be injured, he said.
“This situation is a reminder that law enforcement must always be on guard and prepared to use their skills and training,” said Highway Patrol Capt. Bobby Albert, patrol commander over Troop 4, which includes York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
If the suspects are found, they could face charges that include assault on a police officer, failure to comply with a lawful order to stop or resisting arrest, Bollinger said. Other charges could develop depending on the severity of Shank's injuries.
The Highway Patrol declined The Herald's request for an interview with Shank, who suffered minor injuries. A manager at Murphy Express also declined to comment.
Shank has worked with the Highway Patrol since June 2007, and is assigned to patrol York County, said Roger Hughes of the Highway Patrol. In 2009 and 2012, he was honored as a DUI Enforcement Hero, one of several troopers to net more than 50 driving under the influence arrests in a year’s time.