NC trooper accused of punching DWI suspect

CHINA GROVE, NC — A North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper is accused of punching a DWI suspect during a traffic stop along Highway 152 near China Grove in Rowan County.

According to court documents, Trooper Jeff Applewhite reported finding 45-year-old David Nixon asleep behind the wheel of his pickup truck in a work area with a strong odor of alcohol on him.

He said Nixon admitted to drinking earlier. Applewhite found that Nixon's blood alcohol was .20 - more than twice the legal limit.

But when the case came to court in Salisbury in December, it took a surprising turn.  Prosecutors dismissed the DWI charges for lack of evidence after watching video from Trooper Applewhite’s in-car camera that they say showed him striking Nixon in the face twice.

Channel 9 spoke with Nixon at his home near Salisbury. He didn’t want to be on camera, but told us that he was ready to walk away until prosecutors said they thought Trooper Applewhite may have gone too far, and they asked neighboring Davidson County’s district attorney to step in.

"I felt like it certainly merited letting the victim be sworn and talk to the magistrate," said Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank.

After talking with Frank's assistants, Nixon swore out an assault warrant against Trooper Applewhite, saying he was punched twice while he was handcuffed and seat belted.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol said Applewhite resigned 10 days later. He has a court date in April.

"One of my ADAs will be prosecuting the matter with this gentleman as our witness," said Frank.