The family of a Russian man who suffered a seizure on a plane arriving into JFK alleges he wound up dead after cops at the airport responded to the “disoriented” traveler by punching, pepper-spraying and then sitting on him, according to a new lawsuit.
Grigory Tikhoplav filed the Manhattan Supreme Court suit against the Port Authority on Friday over the death of his son, Evgeniy Lagoda, on April 12, 2019.
Lagoda — an engineer who didn’t speak any English — was coming into JFK on a JetBlue flight from Moscow for work when he had a seizure on the plane, according to the suit.
But when Lagoda came to, he was “bleeding from the mouth” and “noticeably disoriented, sweating profusely, and his eyes were blank,” the court papers claim.
When the plane landed, the PA police responded to the scene but Lagoda was “disoriented and combative after suffering from a seizure,” the suit claims.
The first cop to arrive tried to tell Lagoda in English to calm down, but — not understanding English — he didn’t, so the officer pepper-sprayed him, then “punched a disoriented Mr. Lagoda in the face with his fist, knocking Lagoda to the ground,” the court documents allege.
“The first responding officer struggled to successfully handcuff Mr. Lagoda and, amidst the struggle, ended up on top of Mr. Lagoda — who was on his back — and straddling Mr. Lagoda’s chest and torso,” the suit charges.
More PA cops came, and they also punched Lagoda in an attempt to restrain him, the court filing claims.
The officers “eventually rolled Mr. Lagoda onto his side and subsequently noticed that the side of Mr. Lagoda’s neck was turning blue,” prompting them to check for his pulse — and they found none, the court papers say.
They then uncuffed Lagoda and started CPR to no avail, while the ambulance was delayed waiting for a Port Authority police escort — a requirement to get onto airport grounds, the court documents charge.
“At least one of the approximately four additional PAPD officers who boarded the plane and aided the first responding officer was supposed to — but did not — stay behind and escort the ambulance to the aircraft,” the suit alleges.
Because of this, the ambulance didn’t arrive until 20 minutes after Lagoda was found to have no pulse, the court papers claim.
The EMTs weren’t able to revive Lagoda, who was later pronounced dead at the hospital, the court documents say.
“Mr. Lagoda died … as a result of the physical injuries caused by the PAPD,” the suit charges.
The medical examiner found that Lagoda died from a cardiac arrest due to a combination of factors, including the seizures that left him in a medically vulnerable state and the “physical struggle/altercation with blunt impacts,” according to a report issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office in April 2020.
“Indeed, because, in the medical examiner’s expert opinion, the actions of the police officers at least contributed to Mr. Lagoda’s death, the manner of death was identified in the autopsy as ‘homicide,’” the AG’s report said.
James said her office didn’t find any criminal culpability by the responding officers. Still, James recommended policy, procedure, and training changes going forward — which she laid out in a report.
Specifically, the report recommended that they improve emergency vehicle escort protocols, give additional training to the PA police and have the officers wear body cameras.
Tikhoplav is suing the PA for unspecified damages.
The PA did not immediately return a request for comment.