‘I Can’t Breathe’: Disgraced Sac PD officer kneeled on man’s neck for 5 minutes in 2019

CBS 13

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Sacramento Police officer facing criminal charges for falsifying a police report was fired last year after the department’s internal affairs division found five incidents where she engaged in similar dishonest conduct, according to SB-1421 records recently released by the city of Sacramento.

Alexa Palubicki was charged last May with two felony counts of falsifying a police report in relation to a traffic stop on a Black motorist at a gas station near Discovery Park. She returns to court later this month to enter a plea to the charges.

In that incident, the Sacramento Police Department’s Internal Affairs division found, Palubicki illegally stopped the driver for a failing to use a turn signal, detained him for illegal parking, and found a gun in the car after seeing a joint in the cupholder. She later wrote in a probable cause declaration that the stop was made on “suspicion of DUI”.

Investigators later found she was working with another officer on six different versions of a police report in an attempt to find “creative ways” to come up with probable cause to search the man’s car.

Surveillance video from the gas station showed that the driver, whose first name is Andre, did use his turn signal. The substance in his cupholder was later determined to be a tobacco cigar wrapper and returned negative tests for marijuana. His case was later dropped by the DA’s Office for lack of evidence.

Her missteps and violations of department procedure in that arrest and others are outlined in her termination letter dated November 18, 2021, retrieved by The Update from the city. The letter was signed by former chief Daniel Hahn and approved by City Manager Howard Chan.

“Dear Officer Palubicki,” the letter opens, “This letter is to inform you that you are hereby terminated from your position of Police Officer and from City service effective November 18, 2021.”

The letter breaks down each arrest in which Palubicki omitted or misrepresented material facts. IA staff found she wrote down pursuits that didn’t actually happen, failed to include mirandized statements from suspects, and farmed hours of overtime when she actually clocked out early.

One of the incidents included a chaotic altercation during an arrest where Palubicki placed her knee on a man’s neck for five minutes as he complained he couldn’t breathe. The move is against department policy and became the subject of widespread controversy after it was used by an officer in Minneapolis to murder George Floyd.

The incident was a domestic violence call in August of 2019, where Palubicki responded with another officer, Andrew Schaner, to an apartment where a woman said her boyfriend had “become physical” with her.

As Palubicki and Schaner attempted to take the boyfriend into custody as he exited the apartment, investigators say, a “struggle ensued” resulting in Palubicki’s body worn camera turning off. Officer Schaner’s body camera stayed on, however, and captured the suspect repeating “I can’t breathe” and get your f—ing knee off me”.

Officer Schaner told Palubicki to take her knee off the suspect’s neck and he was eventually placed into the car. While he was being put into the car, he briefly put his legs in the doorway in an effort to stop it from being closed.

Palubicki later told her sergeant that the suspect kicked her and Officer Schaner, saying she placed her knee on his neck before immediately recanting.

“So, I just had my knee on his neck so he can’t, like, bite me or anything,” Palubicki stammered. “Um, actually, it was like his upper back. It wasn’t his neck because I wanted to make sure he could breathe.”

Following several interviews throughout the course of the Internal Affairs Division’s investigation, ending with one with Palubicki, the officer admitted that she “could have” had her knee on the man’s neck and said she “may have misspoke” in recounting the event to her coworkers.

“Did I misspeak? Absolutely. Was it untrue? I didn’t mean for it to be untrue,” she explained.

A review of body worn camera footage found that Palubicki made no mention of the suspect’s repeated complaints that he couldn’t breathe and later bragged to uninvolved officers that she held the man down with a knee on his neck.

“I fucking used my force,” Palubicki said.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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