Trucker fights for day in court, alleging CHP officers used excessive force

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | 2/20/2015

More than two years after a truck driver filed a lawsuit against six California Highway Patrol officers, he is still fighting for his day in court.

What started out as a routine roadside stop ended up with Olegs Kozacenko, a California truck driver, being transported to a trauma center with multiple broken bones. He claims in his suit that he was assaulted and beaten by CHP officers for asking to read a ticket before signing it.

Photo courtesy of court documents

Olegs Kozacenko continues court fight, alleging California Highway Patrol officers used excessive force after traffic stop.

Kozacenko’s trial date, originally set for Feb. 2015, has been pushed back a year and is now scheduled to start on Feb. 8, 2016, according to his attorney, David Wiechert. Wiechert said the parties are “in the midst of discovery” in preparation for the jury trial.

According to court documents, Kozacenko, of Berkeley, Calif., was traveling westbound on Interstate 80 in Placer County, Calif., around 5 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2011, when he was pulled over by CHP officers, Andrew P. Murrill and J. Sherman, who asked for his license, logbook and medical card.

In Kozacenko’s complaint, he claims Murrill reviewed his logbook and cited him for being out of hours, which he wasn’t. The trooper erroneously asserted that Kozacenko was legally allowed to drive only 10 hours, instead of 11 hours in a 14-hour period.

Kozacenko also alleges in his complaint that Trooper Murrill entered the cab of his truck and began searching his sleeper berth without his consent.

When Kozacenko asked to read the summons to appear in court, he claims Officer Murrill grabbed his left arm and bent it at the elbow behind his back. Then he says both officers started beating him.

“The force that they used broke the neck of the humerus bone in Kozacenko’s left shoulder,” according to the complaint. He also sustained multiple facial fractures, including his nose, cheek and orbital bones, fractured ribs, Taser burns, a concussion and traumatic brain injury.

In his complaint, Kozacenko alleges the officers violated his rights by using excessive force, warrantless and unreasonable search and that he suffered “unreasonable interference with his personal liberty, physical injury, pain and suffering, humiliation, emotional distress and other injuries.”

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Murrill and Sherman’s superior officers, including Sgt. Kevin Pierce, Lt. John Arrabit, Assistant Chief Kenneth Hill and Commander Chief Stephen Lerwill.

The complaint alleges they “failed to adequately supervise, investigate and discipline officers’ use of excessive force.”

He also alleges that excessive force, unlawful search and wrongful arrest were used because of his Russian/Latvian ethnicity. Kozacenko, who reads and speaks English, emigrated to the U.S. from Russia, where he had the equivalent of two master’s degrees and worked as a maritime engineer, according to the complaint.

He was transported from the scene to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, then transferred to U.C. Davis Medical Center in Davis, Calif., where he underwent facial reconstructive surgery, according to court documents.

The complaint also alleges that Officers Murrill and Sherman “submitted deliberately inaccurate reports and declarations of probable cause in this incident, stating or implying that Kozacenko was violating the law and that his arrest was reasonable, including alleging that Kozacenko was driving under the influence of alcohols and/or drugs.”

Blood analysis taken from Kozacenko at the hospital showed “the total absence of any evidence to support this allegation” that Kozacenko had alcohol or drugs in his system.

According to the original complaint, CHP Officer Murrill submitted DUI forms to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which revoked Kozacenko’s commercial driver’s license. It was later reinstated after the negative toxicology reports were received. The DUI charge, as well as a resisting arrest charge filed against him, were both dropped.

His complaint states that he suffered a significant concussion, contusions, convulsions and significant traumatic brain injury. He is now unable to work and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He is seeking compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages against the named defendants.

“The officers pledged to protect law and order and to defend people and not to beat people up at their discretion,” Kozacenko stated in his deposition on Nov. 25, 2014.

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