Airline pilot claims Rapid City police wrongfully arrested him on alcohol charge

Published: Sep. 12, 2019 at 3:57 PM MDT
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An airline pilot arrested in October 2016 for “operation of an aircraft while intoxicated” is now suing two Rapid City police officers.

In a federal court complaint filed in Rapid City, Russell Duszak claims he was falsely arrested and that because of the arrest, he was fired and has not been able to work as a pilot since. The complaint is against officers Jerred Younie and Paul Hinzman.

According to Duszak’s complaint, on Oct. 26, 2016, Transportation Security Officer Sydne Fildes reported she “may have smelled the odor of alcohol coming from one of the pilots” boarding a Skywest plane heading to Salt Lake City.

The TSA called the Rapid City Police Department and Hinzman responded. According to the complaint, Hinzman did not perform field sobriety tests on the pilot and also declined to conduct a blood test that Duszak demanded.

Reportedly, two and a half hours after Duszak was first detained, a second officer – Jerred Younie – arrived and a field breathalyzer test was administered.

The complaint only says the field test was positive for alcohol. However, a tweet Thursday afternoon by RCPD Chief Karl Jegeris puts the alcohol level at .046. The limit for airline pilots is .04, half of what it is for drivers.

A blood test was done around four and a half hours after Duszak was first taken off the plane. That test put Duszak’s BAC at .015, well below the threshold to be charged.

Several weeks later, the charges were dropped.

The complaint states that the officers “defamed and slandered the professional and personal reputation” of Duszak. Furthermore, Duszak claims he was illegally detained by Hinzman and Younie, “maliciously” prosecuted, and that police statements negatively affected his employment status.

Thursday, in a tweet reacting to the complaint, Jegeris said:

“I have a high degree of respect for airline pilots, but I insist they be completely sober when flying aircraft out of RAP. This @skywestairlines pilot blew 0.046 BAC (blood alcohol content) on a portable breathalyzer test. Suing the Police Officers involved is absurd.”

According to Jegeris, the city and the department stand by the officers. Younie is still on the force; Hinzman is retired.

We have reached out to Duszak’s legal counsel but have not had a response by the time this story was posted.

This is a developing story.

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