Crime & Courts

Kodiak police to release video of altercation with autistic man

The Kodiak Police Department said Tuesday it will release the video and written reports of a physical encounter between police officers and an autistic man.

A week ago, Kodiak Superior Court Judge Steve Cole "determined the law was unclear surrounding the video footage" of the Sept. 16 incident between the officers and 28-year-old Nick Pletnikoff, according to a KPD press release.

As Pletnikoff was checking his mailbox, police pepper-sprayed him, handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground, according to Kodiak radio station KMXT. They defended their actions, stating they were responding to a 911 call about someone trying to steal from a car parked on a neighborhood street.

Pletnikoff was not charged with a crime and was released.

KPD said the city will fully comply with the judge's order.

"While the City has only been ordered to release the three chest (camera) videos, the City intends to release audio, videos, and police reports of the incident in light of the judge's legal interpretation of the exemption under which the documents were withheld," the police department said.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that the judge rejected the city's argument that privacy issues and an ongoing third-party investigation exempted the videos from release. Cole ordered the police department to hand over the videos by Dec. 31.

Kodiak Public Broadcasting Co., a public radio station on the island, sued the city, seeking release of documents in the police case.

Judy Pletnikoff, Nick's mother, said she is encouraged by the release of the videos but upset that the process took three months. She said she requested the video herself on the same day she walked down the street to find her son handcuffed and bloody.

Additionally, the family hired a local defense attorney, who is privately investigating the incident along with the Angstman Law Office in Bethel.

The police department said it looks forward to addressing the public and "correct(ing) the misinformation circulating over the last three months." The city initially felt obligated to protect Pletnikoff's identity, but the judge's order has overruled that, according to KPD.

Due to Judge Cole's finding "that there is no right to privacy implicated by a release of the videos, the City is currently in the process of gathering the documents requested for full release and will be ready and willing to address the public and the media within the next few days and, in any event, by this Thursday," KPD said.

A police department official said additional information will be available on Thursday.

Judy said the police department told her it barred access to the materials because it needed to uphold the integrity of its own investigation, not the privacy of her son.

Nick Pletnikoff struggles with what happened when he went to check the mail, one of the few tasks he was comfortable doing alone. The first month after the incident was hardest, as he had trouble sleeping, his mother said. It's getting better, but there are times when Nick asks if the police are coming, she said.

"In the beginning I just wanted to go back to before it happened. I'd really like to get Nick back to his considerate, reasonable self, and not have to live with this cloud over him," Judy said.

She also said she would have appreciated KPD meeting with Nick and working through what happened, but the department hasn't expressed interest in working with the family.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.