UHP trooper arrests California fugitive after foot pursuit on I-15

ST. GEORGE A traffic stop and subsequent vehicle search ended with a California man running on both sides of Interstate 15, being tasered and taken to the hospital for stitches before he was booked into Iron County Jail late Tuesday night.

Booking photo of Fonokalafi Miniloti Faanunu, 31, of West Covina, Calif., Iron County, Utah, Oct. 9, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Six charges were filed Wednesday against 31-year-old Fonokalafi Miniloti Faanunu, of West Covina, California, including a third-degree felony count for drug possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Faanunu also was charged with failure to stop at an officer’s command, a class A misdemeanor, and three class B misdemeanors for resisting arrest, possession or use of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He also faces a class C misdemeanor for driving on a revoked license.

Faanunu is a fugitive wanted in California on an extraditable parole violation, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said.

The incident began shortly after 8 p.m. when a UHP trooper stopped Faanunu’s vehicle on I-15 near mile marker 78 in Iron County for a signal violation and a left lane violation. While speaking with the driver, the trooper noticed an electronic cigarette with a wax-like substance on it, which he recognized as cannabis.

“There’s a dabbing tool for loading the wax into the cartridge of a vape pen, which is what the trooper noticed initially,” Street said.

During a search of the car the trooper found a plastic container of marijuana on the passenger’s seat, as well as a large container in the trunk with 50-100 plastic vials of THC, similar to what would be used in a vape pen or device.

The trooper told Faanunu that he was being placed under arrest for possession with intent to distribute, at which point the suspect said he wasn’t going to jail, Street said, and started running north on the interstate and into traffic.

The trooper deployed the taser toward the suspect’s back as he ran, but as the probes were released Faanunu turned to look back, and one of the probes hit him on the side of the face, momentarily incapacitating him, Street said.

Faanunu pulled the probes from his face and body and ran from police for a second time. He jumped over the median to the southbound side of the interstate and ran a short distance before returning to the northbound side where he surrendered to troopers. He was taken into custody without further incident.

“He finally gave up and allowed himself to be taken into custody,” Street said.

The man was transported to the hospital where he received stitches for the lacerations caused by the probes being ripped out, and was transported and booked into Iron County Jail.

“We always make sure EMTs remove those probes, which aren’t designed to be pulled out, so when he did that he sustained lacerations that needed to be stitched up,” Street said.

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