Olegs Kozancenko was a long-haul trucker. Not a gang-banger or drug dealer. Not a child molester or con man. A 58-year-old, 165 pound truck driver, finishing a haul and on his way home. So how does he end up looking like this?
Well, the immediate reason is pretty simple: he was beaten by CHP Officers Andrew P. Murrill and Jim Sherman after they received “a report of a sleepy driver at the brake check station five miles east of the scene.” Murrill gave Kozacenko a ticket for driving his truck too long, though it was based on his truck log for driving two days earlier. It turns out that Murrill, by his own testimony, wasn’t a commercial truck “specialist,” which is code for he had no clue how to read the truck log or what the law required. But that didn’t stop him from being a cop, so he issued the ticket, directed Kozancenko to sign it, and then Kozancenko did the unthinkable:
Kozancenko said he first wanted to read the ticket before signing.So Murrill was constrained to use force.
The 220-pound Murrill goes on to write in his report that the 6’ 165 pound Kozacenko was “actively resisting ” and “exhibited extraordinary strength” in refusing to be detained. “It was not a standard arrest,” the officer stated on the witness stand, even with the help of his 190-pound fellow CHP officer Sherman on the scene with Murrill.
Suspend for the moment the concern over the absence of any cause for a citation, no less an arrest, and focus on the “extraordinary strength” used to prevent the arrest. Note that the word “lawful” doesn’t precede arrest, but that’s just for accuracy’s sake.
“He’s punched, his arm is broken, they’re on top of him face down, his ribs (are) fractured ,” said Katz. “They’re cutting off the oxygen for a significant period of time, they’re trying to use a taser on him.”
Is that it, you wonder? Well, no. That’s not it.
…the truck driver suffered life-threatening injuries including a crushed left orbital eye socket, multiple facial fractures, a broken left arm, a concussion, unconsciousness and possible neurological damage.All for being sleepy, if only because of a mistaken reading of his log book by a cop who admittedly is clueless? Of course not, as the excuses mount:
Medical records also show that he apparently stopped breathing while lying out on the highway and had to be rushed to Auburn Faith Hospital. But Kozacenko’s injuries were too severe for that hospital’s emergency room and he had to be transported to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
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%.After all, it never hurts to throw in a DUI just in case, because after a horrifically severe beating, it’s best to be able to explain that he was a drunk driver. Everyone hates a drunk driver, and is sure that he got what’s coming to him. And in the immediate aftermath of a beating, the only spokesman on camera is paid by the police to tell the story of the how the CHP stopped a drunken potential killer on the road.
After all charges were dropped, after the explanations made by Murrill for the outrageous beating and harm done by two burly cops to this guy who drives a truck were laughed at, after the excuses were rejected and ridiculed, one might reasonably wonder what became of Murrill and Sherman.
Acting Chief Ken Hill oversees the CHP Valley Division, which includes the CHP Gold Run office where Murrill still works. Hill told NBC Bay Area he could not address the specifics of the case because of pending litigation, but assured that he reviews every incident where force is used by one of his officers including Kozacenko’s incident.
“It was not something that jumped out at me being ‘oh my gosh,’ we have some serious issues here,” Hill told NBC Bay Area.
But being a helpful sort, Acting Chief Hill offered these concluding words of wisdom.
“The public if they get stopped and simply comply with what they are asked to do, they have nothing to fear, nothing to fear at all. It is when a citizen decides to disregard the direction that they are given, and they decide to do something different, then things escalate, and I’m not talking about this case specifically, but sometimes a citizen will do things that causes us to escalate our actions,” Hill said.
Or to put it another way, do what we tell you or you’ll end up like Olegs Kozancenko.