Woman pleads guilty to charges after severely injuring ISP trooper on highway - East Idaho News
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Woman pleads guilty to charges after severely injuring ISP trooper on highway

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JEROME — A 22-year-old Jerome woman will not go to trial after she injured an Idaho State Police trooper while he responded to a vehicle fire last year.

Emina Hukic was charged with three misdemeanors in the case, including driving without privileges, reckless driving, and destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. She initially pleaded not guilty to all three charges in September.

Sgt. Mike Wendler was hurt on Sept. 8, 2022, when he responded to a vehicle fire around 8:30 a.m. on Interstate 84 in Jerome County and was hit by a car that Hukic was driving while he was directing traffic.

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In April, Hukic agreed to plead guilty to reckless driving and driving without privileges. The third charge is not mentioned, but it may have been dropped. EastIdahoNews.com reached out to the Jerome County Prosecutor’s Office for clarification but has not heard back.

Court documents state, “The facts of this case which makes her guilty of this offense is that on the day alleged she operated a vehicle in manner which caused injury to Trooper Mike Wendler and was driving on a suspended driver’s license in the city of Jerome and in Jerome County.”

Hukic is scheduled for sentencing on June 28 at the Jerome County courthouse.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by the Jerome Police Department, an officer arrived at the scene that day and noticed Wendler lying next to a Jerome City fire truck. Officers provided medical aid to him, specifically attempting to clear his blocked airway.

Wendler was airlifted to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls. He had a traumatic brain injury, his skin was ripped off his right hand, and he needed stitches. He had a jaw fracture, and his teeth were knocked out. Click here to watch his hospital release.

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Hukic was driving a gray 2012 Hyundai Sonata, according to court documents. Police noticed the vehicle’s windshield sustained significant damage on the passenger side. In surveillance video captured at the scene, Wendler is seen and heard being launched approximately 25 to 35 feet eastbound down the interstate.

Police interviewed Hukic, and she said she saw emergency personnel as she was driving. She explained all traffic began to slow down due to emergency vehicles. Hukic said she was about to hit the vehicle in front of hers, and she swerved to the right to avoid it. As she swerved, she saw the trooper and attempted to brake to avoid hitting him.

She estimated her speed to be 50 to 55 mph when she hit him. She swerved back towards the left lane and veered off to the right shoulder. Hukic parked on the shoulder and ran from her vehicle towards the trooper to check on him, documents said.

The officer investigating asked Hukic why she had to brake and swerve to avoid suddenly hitting the vehicle in front of her. She explained she looked down to view a notification on her phone. When Hukic looked back up, that’s when she had to swerve.

Hukic made a statement to another officer about taking a photo with her phone before hitting Wendler. She said she snapped a picture of the semi-truck and police vehicles. After hitting Wendler, she deleted the picture based on not wanting anyone to think she intentionally struck him, documents said.

mike wendler
ISP Sgt. Mike Wendler | Courtesy Idaho State Police

Wendler is still dealing with the pain and aftermath of the incident. He is currently in full-time occupational therapy. He has not been able to return to work, according to an April update from his wife on a GoFundMe page. On Monday, the page raised $61,170 of $75,000 to help support Wendler’s family.

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