By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A naked woman who told police she was sexually assaulted stole a sheriff's vehicle on Thursday and led authorities on a long high-speed chase that ended in the middle of an Arizona highway, a sheriff's deputy said.
The woman, who authorities have not identified, was taken to a hospital after she was subdued by a "stun bag" when she left the sheriff's truck on a median along Interstate 10 in southern Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Ben Henry told reporters.
Sheriff's officials said the incident began on Thursday morning when a deputy was called to a gas station and encountered the naked woman standing outside, Henry said. The deputy said the woman appeared distraught and disoriented, Henry said.
The deputy, who left his vehicle running, tried to cover the woman with a blanket but she climbed into the car and sped off, the officials said.
Henry said the deputy tried to stop her by jumping on the running board but was unsuccessful and tumbled to the ground,
sustaining minor injuries. He was treated at a local hospital and released, Henry said.
He took up the pursuit in a civilian's car and alerted other authorities. The woman hit speeds of more than 100 miles per hour (160 kph) during the roughly hour-long chase that spanned parts of two interstate highways in southern Arizona over 70 miles (113 km).
At one point, the stolen car's tires were punctured by nail-studded strips deputies had laid down.
The pursuit ended when the woman collided with another vehicle and came to a stop near Eloy, Arizona.
Sheriff's officials said in a statement they hit her with the stun bag because she was initially non-compliant and they were afraid she was going to cross the freeway to avoid capture.
Stun bags contain pellets and are designed to stop someone without killing them.
The passengers in the vehicle were not injured.
Sheriff's officials are investigating the woman's reported sexual assault but have not yet interviewed her, Henry said.
It was not immediately known why she took the deputy's vehicle.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix, Arizona; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and James Dalgleish)