Judy Pletnikoff: Police Encounter ‘Pretty Brutal’

Jay Barrett/KMXT

Attorneys for the city of Kodiak turned over to the Pletnikoff family the video 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. 

As of noon, those tapes had not been released to KMXT Radio, as ordered by Alaska Superior Court Judge Steve Cole over a week ago.

Judy Pletnikoff, Nick’s mother, watched the police videos this morning, and said that the encounter between her son and the three officers who accosted him while he was checking the mailbox, was even worse than she had imagined it would be.

“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,” she said. “It was really fast and pretty brutal. A lot of pushing his head into he ground and then they pepper spray him point blank in the face. He’s already down, by three people.”

Judy Pletnikoff came upon the scene on September 16th as it was starting to deescalate, but on the tape, she said she saw that her son was trying to be as cooperative as he could:

“Nick was very compliant. He tried to do what they said. He didn’t really understand what they said. There was a lot of screaming. Not by Nick. Nick was very polite and quiet and compliant. He said, ‘I’m sorry,’” Judy Pletnikoff said. “He was squirming, which is just natural when you have guys on top of you, I suppose. But other than that, he was just pretty complacent. He just wanted to go home.”

Pletnikoff family attorney Josh Fitzgerald also described the incident as one that escalated incredibly quickly. 

“There’s no police work being done,” Fitzgerald said. “Officer de la Fuente shows up, walks towards the scene, and within 27 seconds he’s got Nick Pletnikoff on the ground, tussling around and manhandling him in a very serious way.”

Fitzgerald described the rest as difficult to watch.

“And it gets worse from there,” he said. “As they go down to the ground they’re piling on him. De la Fuente with his forearm, with a lot of force bashing Nick’s head into the concrete, pushing down on it with his hand and elbow and forearm repeatedly. And it’s just brutal. It’s just gut-wrenching to watch.”

Fitzgerald said he found out in the data released by the city that one of the police officers has known Nick Pletnikoff since childhood.

“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.

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