Man Arrested for Kidnapping and Strangling Woman, Eluding Casper Police
Several 911 calls from witnesses who said they saw a man force a woman into his van led police to stop the van after a short pursuit Tuesday on Poplar Street before the man, as the victim later told investigators, could kill both of them.
Damon Flanagan, 47, was booked on charges of kidnapping, strangulation of a household member, eluding and interference, as well as three previous warrants for failure to appear and failure to comply.
Should prosecutors formally bring kidnapping and strangulation charges against Flanagan at his initial appearance in Natrona County Circuit Court -- likely at 2 p.m. Wednesday -- he could face 25 years to life plus five years in prison.
Court documents say a man called 911 at about 3:30 p.m. Monday from the 1200 block of South Cedar Street, saying a man had thrown a woman into a blue van.
Later, the man who called 911 would tell police he was inside his home when his daughters came inside and said they saw a man push a woman to the ground.
He went outside to investigate and called 911, reporting events as he observed them. He saw Flanagan hit the victim several times, with the victim striking back as she tried to get away. Flanagan followed the woman wherever she went.
The man couldn't make out what they were saying to each other, but he told investigators he heard the victim tell him to call the police.
The 911-caller watched as Flanagan allegedly picked up the victim and carried her into the van. Flanagan then got into the passenger sea and the van drove off.
The man was able to describe Flanagan and the victim to police.
Officers responded to the area, but couldn't immediately find the van. An officer found it near the Sunrise Shopping Center at 4:14 p.m. and tried to stop the vehicle.
The van did not immediately stop, but eventually pulled over at the intersection of Grenada and Poplar.
The officer got out of his patrol car and approached the van. He saw the victim banging on the rear window of the van, screaming for help.
As the officer approached the van, Flanagan allegedly shifted into drive and took off, continuing north for about four blocks before stopping again in the 2800 block of South Poplar.
Other officers arrived on scene and opened the driver's side door of the van, ordering Flanagan to exit. Flanagan reportedly remained in the driver's seat, so officers pulled him out of the van and took him to the ground, taking him into custody.
Flanagan was taken to an interview room at the Casper Police Department. The victim was treated by EMS and taken to Wyoming Medical Center.
An officer noted physical symptoms indicating Flanagan was under the influence of an unspecified central nervous system stimulant. Flanagan was reportedly sweating profusely, his speech was rambling and rapid, and his pupils were constricted.
The victim later told police Flanagan forced her into the van while another person -- Kevin Simmons -- was driving. The victim said Flanagan assaulted her in the back of the van as Simmons drove.
The victim said Simmons later left the van and walked away. Flanagan put her in a headlock, the victim told police, and strangled her as he moved into the driver's seat and drove away.
She also said she was foaming at the mouth and threw up inside the van.
The victim said she had been dating Flanagan, and he would sometimes stay at her house. She had recently considered leaving Casper for Arizona, to get away from him.
Flanagan knew she was planning to leave with their daughter, and he didn't want her to go.
She told police she and Flanagan had been fighting throughout the day. At one point, she, Flanagan and Simmons took a break from work to go aerate and mow the lawn where the victim was staying.
While they were there, the victim told police, she wanted a cigarette and asked a man walking down the street if she could have one. He agreed to give her a cigarette, and the victim decided to mow his lawn in exchange.
The victim said that made Flanagan mad, as he was jealous and constantly accused the victim of cheating. Flanagan started arguing with her.
She was only able to mow half of a neighbor's lawn before Flanagan started telling her to get in the van.
Flanagan allegedly grabbed her by the arm, pressuring her to get into the van. The victim said she got into the van on her own. Once inside, Flanagan reportedly held her in a headlock and told Simmons, who was driving, to take the victim to Wyoming Behavioral Institute because she was suicidal.
The victim said she was not suicidal, and never had been. She said Flanagan didn't hit her, but was holding her down and choking her at times.
The victim remembered seeing the neighbor and asking him to call police, then remembered that she may not have gotten into the van on her own. She was unsure how she got into the van, but said Flanagan may have forced her.
After driving for some time, Simmons reportedly said he couldn't stay any longer and got out. Flanagan moved to the driver's seat and kept driving, holding the victim down and choking her at times. She told police Flanagan drove up near Casper Mountain and said he was going to kill them both.
The victim thought he might drive them off a cliff to kill both of them. She believed she was going to die.
She recalled police pulling up behind the van on Poplar, and she thought Flanagan would run because "he alway did when the police tried to stop him," court documents say. The victim got to the rear window of the van and yelled for help, and was relieved to see police officers.
Simmons made his way to the Casper Police Department at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. In an interview with investigators, he confirmed the victim's story about the cigarette, and how Flanagan became angry.
Flanagan and Simmons went to get a soda and when they returned, Simmons said, their boss had arrived to tell them to get back to work. Then their boss left.
Flanagan and the victim started arguing, Simmons told investigators, while they were outside the van and Simmons was in the driver's seat. Simmons said he put his head down, trying not to pay attention.
When he looked up, he saw Flannagan carrying the victim into the van. Once she was inside, Flanagan told Simmons the victim wanted to commit suicide, so Simmons needed to take them to Wyoming Behavioral Institute. Simons said he did not hear the victim make any such statements, but he started driving toward WBI.
Simmons said the victim would start hitting and scratching Flanagan while they were traveling in the van. Flanagan, Simmons said, never hit the victim, but did "hug her and keep his head in her chest to try to protect against her hitting him."
Simmons said he did not see Flanagan hit or choke the victim.
Eventually, Simmons pulled over near Park Elementary School and got out of the van. He walked away and never looked back.