Driver settles case against Calif. cops out of court

A trucker allegedly assaulted by California Highway Patrol officers while reading a traffic citation has settled his case out of court.

Olegs Kozacenko

On Sept. 2, 2011, Olegs Kozacenko, 57, was driving a 2012 Freightliner for an intrastate trucking company. About 4 a.m. a Truckee, California, Agricultural Station inspection officer spoke to Kozacenko, checked his papers and cleared him. Twenty-two miles later, an officer at another inspection station verified his brakes were compliant.

Kozacenko, who has no criminal record, says CHP officers Andrew P. Murrill and J. Sherman stopped him without probable cause. They reviewed his CDL, logbook, bill of lading, proof of insurance and registration. Murrill then searched his sleeper without consent or explanation but found no contraband.  The troopers got in their vehicle and left Kozacenko in his truck before returning and asking him to exit the vehicle.

They allegedly attacked Kozacenko without provocation while he was reading their citation for exceeding hours-of-service limit by driving 11 hours and 35 minutes.

The officers repeatedly punched, then used a Taser on the 5-foot, 165-pound trucker the lawsuit states. The officers repeatedly pushed his head against the pavement, resulting in a concussion, contusions, convulsions and significant traumatic brain injury. They also broke an upper left arm bone and left him with multiple fractures, according to court documents.

Initially, an ambulance drove him to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital before moving him to U.C. Davis Medical in Davis for treatment.

Kozacenko accuses the officers of falsely reporting he had been driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs when his blood test indicated otherwise. Since the event, he has been unable to fully take care of himself or work and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, he said.

As required, the trucker exhausted California’s government tort claims procedure before filing a complaint in Sacramento’s federal district court. Last March, both parties agreed to mediation and the court dismissed the lawsuit Oct. 22. Information on the settlement was not released.

Kozacenko became a U.S. citizen and earned his CDL after immigrating from Russia. He can speak and read English. In Russia, he had earned two masters degrees and worked as a maritime engineer.