KODIAK, Alaska (AP) — The family of an autistic man restrained in an encounter with Kodiak police is suing the department, city and two law enforcement officials.
Nicholas Pletnikoff was checking the mail in September when members of the Kodiak Police Department responding to a 911 call put him on the ground, handcuffed and pepper sprayed him, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.
Pletnikoff was not charged. Soldotna-based consultant Greg Russell later determined officers responded appropriately, but also recommended further use-of-force training in the department.
Plaintiffs Judith and Robert Pletnikoff are seeking $100,000, as well as costs and punitive damages.
Attorneys Myron Angstman and Joshua Fitzgerald represent the Pletnikoffs, and told KTUU-TV that Russell has a prior relationship with the department and did not consider all the facts.
“Here’s a guy who has special needs and who had extensive work done to get him in a position where he was comfortable going into public, dealing with people on a limited basis and that had been set back dramatically by this event,” Angstman said. “That’s a life changing event for a young man like this and so we will have to seek compensation for that.”
Kodiak Police Chief Ronda Wallace told KTUU-TV on Jan. 4 that Russell’s previous involvement with the department was strictly related to training.
“His history with KPD is that in the mid-2000s, he did a skid car training for us, that was it,” Wallace said. “And then just last year the borough hired him to do an active shooter training for them.”
The lawsuit says Sgt. Francis de la Fuente physically injured Nicholas and Officer Phillip Christman never shared his knowledge of the man’s condition.
Christman and Nicholas had gone to high school together, and he acknowledged that he knew about the man’s “special needs.”
The family is not suing another officer involved in the encounter.
Fitzgerald told KMXT-FM that the decision not to include Officer Kathleen Gambling in the lawsuit would be explained later.