BURLINGTON — A jury of seven men and five women has been selected in U.S. District Court to decide an excessive force complaint brought by a Pittsford businessman against a Rutland City Police officer during a traffic stop.
Kevin Elnicki, owner of Earth, Waste and Metal, maintains Patrol Officer Ryan Ashe used excessive force including drawing his pistol during the traffic stop Dec. 20, 2016, on Route 7 in Rutland Town.
Ashe, who is now a detective for Rutland City Police, has denied any wrongdoing. He said he pulled his gun for his safety and the safety of others. The gun was always pointed down, Ashe said in a court affidavit.
Ashe maintains records show only 68 seconds transpired between when he radioed that he had gotten the truck to stop to the time he radioed dispatch that the situation was secure.
“At no point during the encounter with Mr. Elnicki did I use force against him,” Ashe said in a May 2018 affidavit.
Elnicki’s lawyer, Matthew Hart, of Rutland, maintains his client’s civil rights were violated by Ashe.
Defense lawyer Kaveh Shahi, of Rutland, said in court papers that Elnicki has changed his story about the incident.
Rutland City also was named initially as a defendant, but was dismissed by Judge Christina Reiss in January 2019 during pre-trial proceedings.
It took less than three hours Friday for Judge Christina Reiss to provide preliminary jury instructions to a large panel and for the lawyers on both sides to find a dozen jurors that said they could be impartial for the civil lawsuit.
The trial is due to begin Aug. 19 and projected to last for two days.
The case started when Elnicki was clocked at more than 10 mph over the 35-mph zone heading north out of Rutland City shortly after 3 p.m., court records show.
Elnicki was operating a Kenworth flatbed truck with a 40-yard roll-off waste container, and Ashe had a white plain cruiser with no blue light bar on the roof. There were blue lights contained in the grille, front dash and mirrors.
Ashe reported he cycled through 3 different sounding sirens and used his air horn to try to get the truck driver to stop, but the driver continued for 2.6 miles before pulling into Thomas Dairy. The siren was activated 500 feet into the pursuit. Other drivers in both directions pulled over for the emergency vehicle.
Elnicki said Ashe approached the truck with his gun drawn and swearing to get out of the truck, court records maintain. Elnicki said Ashe asked why the trucker had not pulled over sooner.
Elnicki claims he was forcibly removed from the cab of his truck and slammed to the ground by Ashe, the lawsuit said. He maintains Ashe refused to listen about why he had not pulled over earlier.
The cruiser had no dashcam video and Ashe was not wearing a body camera.
Rutland Officer Misty Klementowski soon arrived in a cruiser with dashcam video, but the exchange had ended and Elnicki was in his cab, records show.
Elnicki maintains he has suffered physical and emotional pain and humiliation.
In their initial response, the city and Ashe said Elnicki was never deprived of any rights. They also said there was probable cause and they acted in good faith They said there was no malice.
Ashe issued tickets to Elnicki for exceeding the local speed limit ($123), failing to obey a police officer ($335) and operating a vehicle with an approaching emergency vehicle ($249). The Vermont Judicial Bureau reported Friday afternoon they were all dismissed on June 22, 2017.