The swift actions of two police officers saved the life of a woman charged with stealing a University of North Dakota police squad car and crashing it in northwestern Minnesota.

Along with explaining the accusations against Kasandra M. Ellis, 23, of Columbia, Mo., a criminal complaint filed this week offered a glimpse into what two Crookston police officers did at the scene to put air back in the woman’s lungs.

Ellis, suspected of being drunk, stole the UND squad car in Grand Forks outside an apartment complex Sunday morning and took off, according to charges filed in Polk County District Court. Campus police used GPS to track it about 25 miles away on eastbound Hwy. 2 heading toward Crookston.

About 9:20 a.m., Ellis lost control of the SUV on a curve and veered into a ditch at the intersection of Hwy. 75 near the University of Minnesota, Crookston.

That’s when Crookston police officers Lee Tate and Donald Rasicot teamed up and saved the woman’s life.

The crumpled SUV came to rest on the side of highway. Ellis was in the vehicle and not breathing.

“That vehicle was on its [passenger] side and unstable,” said Police Chief Paul Biermaier. “[Rasicot] physically held that car from rolling … some more.”

And that’s what allowed Tate to climb into the side and save Ellis, who was “unconscious and not breathing,” the charging document read.

“Kassandra Marie Ellis began breathing again,” the court document declared.

The chief explained that Tate “simply moved the head and neck into neutral position, and that allowed her airway to open.”

While it sounded simple, the chief said, “if you move the head or neck too far back, you can cause new injuries.”

Ellis was taken to Riverview Hospital in Crookston, where she was treated for scrapes and bruises, then discharged with an over-the-counter painkiller. She remains jailed on charges of drunken driving and possession of stolen property ahead of a court appearance Thursday.

Questioned by the State Patrol, Ellis said she had been drinking the night before and admitted to stealing the police vehicle, which was running and unlocked, the complaint read.

The charges did not reveal what motivated her to take the unoccupied SUV. It was parked outside the apartments while officers investigated a report of someone being drunk, lost and disoriented.