- Associated Press - Thursday, September 1, 2016

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska police officer accused of shooting a suspect in the abdomen as he fled a traffic stop has been charged with assault, the state attorney general’s office said Thursday.

Derek Payton turned himself in Wednesday, was charged with second-degree assault and immediately posted bond, the office of Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a news release. Online court records don’t list the name of an attorney who could comment on Payton’s behalf.

If convicted Payton, 35, could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Payton told investigators from other agencies that he pulled the car over in Kearney June 5 because it had license plates assigned to another vehicle. An arrest warrant affidavit filed by a Nebraska State Patrol investigator says the driver, Jose Klich, stopped and got out of the vehicle. Payton ordered Klich to get back in the car.

Payton was standing on the rear passenger side when the car began slowly backing up and eventually hit the officer’s leg, despite his orders to stop and put the car in park, the affidavit says.

Payton yelled for Klich to stop as Klich reversed again then accelerated forward. Payton fired three shots, including two that went through the windshield, the affidavit says. He was not in the direct path of the fleeing car when he fired his weapon, the affidavit says.

Klich’s car hit Payton’s patrol vehicle, another car and a building, and the suspect was captured after a brief foot chase.

The Kearney Hub reports that Klich, Payton and a woman also in Klich’s car were taken to a local hospital. Klich underwent surgery for an abdominal wound.

Peterson’s office declined to answer questions Thursday from The Associated Press about its reasons for charging Payton.

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