City releases audio, video of Kodiak police encounter with Pletnikoff

Nick Pletnikoff, on the ground, about to be pepper sprayed by Kodiak Police Department Sgt. Francis de la Fuente on Sept. 16, 2015. (KPD bodycam footage )
Nick Pletnikoff, on the ground, about to be pepper sprayed by Kodiak Police Department Sgt. Francis de la Fuente on Sept. 16, 2015. (KPD bodycam footage )

The city of Kodiak released video and audio recordings and other documents associated with the case where three city police officers are suspected of using excessive force in subduing Nick Pletnikoff, an autistic young man, in September.

He was suspected of trying to rob a rental car, but he was not charged after officers determined that was not his intent.

Here is the beginning of the incident, when Kodiak Police Sargent Francis de la Fuente first encounters Nick Pletnikoff.

“Do you have an ID on you?,” de la Fuente asks.

“No, I don’t,” Pletnikoff responds.

Immediately de la Fuente tells Pletnikoff, “put your hands behind your back,” and then tells him to, “stop resisting!”

The audio cuts out on one of the officers’ body cameras at that point for six seconds, but is picked up by another, just as de la Fuente and Officer Kathleen Gambling fall to the ground with Nick.

At that point, Officer Phillip Christman is assisting, and encouraging Nick to comply. The audio is about a minute and a half jumble of the officers telling Pletnikoff to stop resisting and him saying he was sorry and asking if he can go home.

The officers were called to the scene, on Stellar Way, when a father and adult son from Oregon, in Kodiak for a sport-fishing trip, called 9-1-1 after Nick tried to enter their rental car.

Police had been dealing with a rash of unsolved car, home and business break-ins and were reportedly suspicious of any such activity.

Pletnikoff had just checked his family’s mail box, across the street from the bed-and-breakfast where the men were about to check in. Judy Pletnikoff, Nick’s mother, watched the police videos last week.

“The speed of the escalation is shocking. I think it was six seconds until they grab a hold of Nick, and by 30 seconds they got three guys on top of him on the ground. It was really fast and pretty brutal,” she said. “A lot of pushing his head into he ground and then they pepper spray him point blank right in the face. He’s already down, by three people.”

Judy Pletnikoff came upon the scene on September 16th as it was de-escalating and EMTs were treating her son, but on the tape, she said she saw that her son was trying to be as cooperative as he could.

Family attorney Josh Fitzgerald said he found out in the data released by the city that one of the police officers did know Nick Pletnikoff and of his developmental challenges.

“And he actually put away his pepper spray, based on his knowledge of Nick, but he doesn’t communicate that to the other officers,” Fitzgerald said. “So we know one of the officers did know exactly who he was and that he was someone with special needs, which is certainly disturbing to learn.”

Judy Pletnikoff said she hopes her son Nick never has to see the tapes and be forced to think about that encounter again.