Kodiak pays $254K to settle lawsuit filed by family of autistic man

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 )
Screen cap from video of Pletnikoff incident (KPD bodycam footage )

The city of Kodiak paid $265,000 to settle a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the family of an autistic man whom a Kodiak Police officer pepper sprayed the year before.

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A father-and-son pair of tourists called 911 when they saw now 30-year-old Nick Pletnikoff nearby their car and believed he was attempting to break in.

According to family attorney Josh Fitzgerald, Pletnikoff was returning home with his family’s mail.

Body cam footage captured the encounter between now 30-year-old Nick Pletnikoff and three police officers who arrived at the scene.

The footage shows officers forcing Pletnikoff to the ground and Sgt. Francis de la Fuente pepper-spraying him in the face in response to what he saw as resistance.

De la Fuente said he did not know Pletnikoff was autistic at the time.

However, one officer at the scene was acquainted with Pletnikoff, knew he had special needs and addressed Pletnikoff by name during the encounter.

Nick’s mother and guardian Judy Pletnikoff says she’s glad the legal battle is over, but she didn’t get what she set out for.

“Money is what we did not want. And I walked into the lawyer’s office first day saying we don’t want anything but an apology,” Judy Pletnikoff said. “We want to sit down with the city in good faith and have a conversation about what happened and how we can move on from here.”

City attorney Bill Ingaldson told the Kodiak Daily Mirror newspaper that the city settled partly because it was concerned a jury would not understand the police officers’ point.