Volgograd policemen beat female cyclist allegedly defending honor of chief
The Investigation Committee refuses to institute criminal proceedings claiming that the woman was injured when falling from her bicycle.
Police officers from the city of Surovikino in the Volgograd Region attacked the cyclist allegedly defending the honor of the police deputy chief Sergey Lagutin. Lagutin’s official car nearly collided with the local resident, who was riding a bicycle. The senior law enforcement officer thought that when the cyclist turned around, she spat on his car. Lagutin summoned reinforcements from the district police department to handle the matter. Following the talk with the police officer, the cyclist was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. In spite of all the evidence, investigators refuse to open a criminal case on abuse of power by police officers.
In the evening of July 1, Natalya Barahtenko was returning on the bicycle from the birthday party of her friend, the Mediazona newspaper reported. When she was passing by the district police department, a service Lada Priora car drove away the building towards her. Natalya turned out dangerously close to the police car, since she did not expect that oncoming vehicle on the road. The woman claims that the Priora’s driver abruptly pulled away from the police department, without the side turn signals. Barahtenko turned to see the license plate of the car, and drove on. However, the car, with the deputy chief of the police department Lieutenant Colonel Sergey Lagutin, as it turned out later, drew up with the cyclist. Two other police officers came to the rescue of their boss. One of them pushed the girl sitting on the bike. Barahtenko fell backward, hitting her head on the asphalt. She was then accused of spitting on Lagutin’s car. Denying this, Barahtenko asked Lagutin if in his opinion she had done it. He ignored the question and passed by the woman, who was still lying on the pavement with the bleeding head.
"I was already covered in blood. I started asking these police officers to let me come to the water fountain, which was in the corner, - Barahtenko said, as quoted by Mediazona. - They said: "No, you are not going anywhere... When I flinched to go, they were stopping me."
Natalya claimed that both police officers refused to give their names. Later, relatives of the victim found that the one who had pushed her to the pavement was local police inspector Alexander Kopets and the one who had accused of spitting in the car was the duty officer Vasily Ponomarev.
Ambulance arrived only when the victim’s relatives called it, but the police tried to stop them from doing it. Law enforcers insisted on drawing up a report on the offense for the victim. By that time, two more policemen came to the department building — patrol officers Dmitry Zhirkov and Chuksin. Barahtenko argues that Alexander Kopets offered her to "settle things over."
Before providing first aid in the hospital, its staff decided to conduct a drug test. The Alcometer device showed a 0.8 promille of alcohol in blood of the woman. However, no blood test was performed. As the victim's brother Andrey Ivanov later noted in court, the Alcometer had been used in the hospital for eight years, even though the instructions state that it could be used for only five. Also, the adjustment of the device parameters was carried out two years ago, rather than six months, as recommended by the manual.
The specialist who conducted the inspection, concluded that the woman drank about a liter of beer shortly before the inspection. Barahtenko herself claims that she had only a half-liter bottle of beer two hours before the incident on the day of her friend’s birthday. She signed the act of examination, but refused to put the signature under the report on the offense, which stated that she had been detained for appearing in a public place tottering while intoxicated. After this, Barahtenko was finally put in a surgical ward. Doctors diagnosed Natalya with an open head injury, concussion, contused wound at the back of the neck, a bruise of the lumbosacral region, and bruised tailbone.
Protocol supports the police, the court supports Barahtenko
After Natalya Barahtenko had been discharged from the hospital, a court hearing was held on the case of "appearing in a public place while intoxicated" (Art. 20.21 of the Administrative Code). Natalya’s brother Andrey Ivanov was her representative. He argues that the police report had a lot of factual errors. For example, it states that at 22:40 Barahtenko was tottering next to the police department, had slurred speech, and a pungent smell of alcohol. In fact, the girl was thrown from the bicycle at around 21:30, and at 22:40 she was in the ambulance. This time is confirmed by Natalya’s call detail record and ambulance call log. Also, Andrey Ivanov has a video from the surveillance cameras, where it can be seen how and at what time Natalia rode on a bicycle dangerously close to the police car. There is also a video, where law enforcement officers pushed the cyclist.
Also, the police report mentions the woman’s untidy appearance. At the same time, evidence suggest the opposite. As a result, the judge considered the charges unproven: "The protocol on the administrative offense dated July 1, 2016, fails to specify the state of Barahtenko N.V.’s intoxication, which could be used to make a reliable conclusion about the offense of such condition for human dignity and public morality."
Law enforcers beyond the hand of law
Relatives of the victim filed a complaint on police misconduct the next day after the incident. Ten days later, on July 12, a senior investigator of Surovikino Interdistrict Investigative Office of IC Department in the Volgograd Region, Galina Karagacheva, refused to initiate criminal proceedings against the police officers.
According to Natalya’s brother, the investigator did everything so that the police could avoid responsibility. For example, Karagacheva inspected the bike only on the ninth day after the incident. She concluded that there were no visible signs of damage to the bike, and that the seat and the steering wheel had a "brown substance in the form of blots." In addition, it is mentioned in the refusal that Barahtenko did not testify. However, on July 12, she gave testimony to the investigator Karagacheva — the victim has a copy of the protocol and an audio of their conversation.
The investigator did not see any signs of conflict on the video from the CCTV cameras installed at the entrance to the police department. She claims that the police officer even tried to help Barahtenko when she suddenly decided to fall off the bicycle. The investigator also did not commission a forensic examination.
In the end, the investigator concluded that on the evening of July 1, the woman was driving past the police department on the bicycle "in a state of alcoholic intoxication," and fell to the pavement, causing an open cranio-cerebral and other injuries. No signs of a crime under art. 285 and 286 of the Russian Criminal Code (Abuse of Official Power and Misfeasance) were found.
Police Vs. Cyclist
All police investigator told the investigator that Barahtenko used obscene language when talking to Kopets and Ponomarev, even though they were reasonable and did not commit any misconduct. Lagutin, who was driving Lada Priora, said that the victim’s mother also insulted and "grabbed and pushed" the policemen. Barahtenko herself denies this. Patrol officer Zhirkov and his colleague Chuksin generally argued that when the duty officer Vasily Ponomarev had asked Barahtenko to come to the station, she had pushed him in the chest, so that "Ponomarev V.P. staggered, and moreover, there were blood stains on his shirt."
On July 4, the policemen applied a complaint for public insult Kopets and Ponomarev by Barahtenko and her mother (Art. 319 of the Russian Criminal Code) and the use of violence against Ponomarev by the cyclist (Art. 318 of the Russian Criminal Code). In the course of pre-investigation checks on this issue, two people were interviewed, who had not been questioned when Barahtenko’s statements were checked. Certain witnesses - a cyclist and a car driver - made statements similar to the testimony of the police officer Chuksin. They claimed to have heard Barahtenko and her mother using foul language against the policemen. The victim’s brother claims that the cameras did not capture these cyclist and driver, who suddenly became witnesses. Other witnesses – doctor Vladislav Utkin and nurse Elena Tsarevskaya - told that the girl and her mother indeed spoke with the police in a raised voice in the hospital, but did not use obscene language.
Despite the efforts of police, senior investigator Karagacheva refused to prosecute Barahtenko.
New criminal cases incoming
After the judge had made a decision in favor of the cyclist, patrol officer Dmitry Zhirkov filed an appeal. He asked to hold Barahtenko responsible in accordance with the Administrative Code. The complaint is to be reviewed on September 5.
"I happened to come into the city yesterday. I wanted to spend time with the case. And they are saying: "We do not have it, we have transferred to the district." It turns out that the police have filed a complaint against the court decision. We were not informed," Ivanov said, as quoted by Mediazona.
In turn, Barahtenko and her relatives are trying to initiate legal action against the police officers. "We came to the prosecutor's office at working hours, there is a lot of offices, but we have not been received. All the doors were closed before us. We have written some 20 letters to all the agencies. We have sent them, to no avail. The local prosecutor refused us. We have turned to the prosecutor's office of the Volgograd Region. We sent the letter, but received no reply since then," Natalya’s brother said.
Ivanov thinks that the refusal to initiate the case can be explained by the close ties law enforcement and investigative agencies have. "The town is small, here [the staff of] IC, the police department - all of them are like family," Ivanov sums it up.
Despite run-around replies from supervisory authorities, Ivanov hopes to bring the police officers to justice. Last week, he was received by the Chief of the Interior Ministry Department in the Volgograd Region Alexander Kravchenko.
"He gave the Head of the Security Service Department ten days to deal," Ivanov said, not without skepticism.
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