Pletnikoff family takes city to court

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 )

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It’s been almost five months since three Kodiak police officers pinned an autistic man to the ground and pepper-sprayed him at point-blank range.

Nick Pletnikoff was not charged with any crime, after the incident, but the Kodiak Police Department hired a police consultant from Soldotna to investigate the actions of its officers. The report, released last week, found the officers acted appropriately.

Others disagree, including the Pletnikoff family, who Tuesday filed suit in Kodiak Superior Court against the city, the police department and two of the three officers involved. Named as defendants are Sergeant Francis de la Fuente and Officer Phillip Christman. Not named in the suit is officer Kathleen Gambling, who also participated in the detention of Pletnikoff.

When contacted Tuesday, family attorney Josh Fitzgerald said the reason Gambling was not named would eventually be explained.

The 15-page complaint accuses Christman of not alerting his fellow officers of Nick Pletnikoff’s special-needs condition, since they have known each other since high school, and it accuses de la Fuente of escalating an incident that, until he arrived, was non-violent. The complaint claims Nick Pletnikoff’s special needs condition should have been obvious to any reasonable officer at the scene.

The suit accuses both Christman and de la Fuente of negligence and accuses de la Fuente of assault and battery. It also blames the city and police department for a lack of training and holds it liable for the actions of its officers.

The Pletnikoffs are asking for judgment in excess of $100,000 as well as punitive damages, and are asking for a jury trial to be held in Kodiak.