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Ear to the Ground

California Man Sues Officers He Says Nearly Beat Him to Death

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Posted on May 21, 2013
Screenshot

Olegs Kozacenko.

A Berkeley, Calif., resident who nearly died after an incident in which he said he asked two Highway Patrol officers to read a traffic ticket they had issued him has filed a lawsuit against them and the state.

Olegs Kozacenko, a 58-year-old former truck driver who can no longer work because of the injuries stemming from the encounter, says he’s simply seeking justice.

The event in question happened Sept. 2, 2011, when two CHP officers pulled over Kozacenko. After he stopped, officers tried to give Kozacenko, a Russian immigrant, a ticket for driving his truck for too many hours. Kozacenko says he refused to sign it unless they read it to him first. At that point, Officer Andrew P. Murrill decided he needed to make a “forcible arrest,” NBC Bay Area says Murrill testified in court at an evidentiary hearing. NBC notes that Murrill wrote in his official report that Kozacenko was “actively resisting” and “exhibited extraordinary strength.” It reports that on the witness stand, Murrill said “it was not a standard arrest,” even with fellow Officer Jim Sherman on the scene assisting.

Kozacenko’s injuries included “a crushed left orbital eye socket, multiple facial fractures, a broken left arm, a concussion, unconsciousness and possible neurological damage,” NBC Bay Area writes that emergency room records showed.

No dash cam video of the incident exists because Sherman and Murrill didn’t have cameras on their patrol SUVs, NBC reports the CHP said. Additionally, it writes that in response to a public records request, the CHP said associated radio logs were never found because of a “system malfunctioning for this time period.”

According to Stewart Katz, Kozacenko’s attorney, the initial ticket leading to the arrest shouldn’t even have been written. “The officer didn’t know the law, didn’t ask anyone the law, didn’t look anything up, just wrong,” Katz told NBC.

Murrill conceded as much in court.

NBC Bay Area:

In his testimony during an evidentiary hearing on a defense motion to suppress evidence gathered after the ticket was written, officer Murrill admitted that he was confused, either by the law governing the hour limits for truck drivers or by reading the truck driver’s log book. Murrill also admitted on the witness stand that he was not a trained commercial vehicle specialist and did not call to ask for a commercial vehicle specialist to help at the scene. And he admitted on the stand that the hours Murrill was reading on Kozacenko’s truck driver log book were recorded two days earlier when Kozacenko was driving through Nebraska, Iowa and Wyoming.

In addition to being cited by officer Murrill for driving over hours, Kozacenko was written up for DUI.  However,  that citation was also dropped (along with the driving too many hours charge) when Kozacenko’s blood alcohol came back clean at 0.00%.

The arrest report also suggested drug possession after officers seized a white powdery substance found in a white plastic pill bottle from Kozacenko’s truck cab. But that, too, turned up clean. The substance was table salt.

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Nearly two years have passed since the incident, but neither the state attorney general’s office nor the California Highway Patrol have confirmed whether the two officers involved were ever disciplined for their actions. However, the CHP did confirm to NBC Bay Area that both officers are still on duty.

And so Kozacenko continues his quest for justice.

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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