SEATTLE — More than 40 minutes of newly released Seattle Police Department body-camera video shows the Colorado Avalanche’s team doctor saying forward Valeri Nichushkin was removed by the team from its downtown hotel for “his own health and safety stuff” after being found alone in his room with a heavily intoxicated woman before a playoff game against the Kraken on April 22.
The footage, released Thursday after a public-disclosure request made by The Seattle Times, showed the response by officers Joshua Knight and Ryan Beecroft to a behavioral crisis call at the Four Seasons Hotel that afternoon. The Avalanche and Kraken faced off in a playoff game that night at Climate Pledge Arena.
The footage shows Avalanche team physician Dr. Bradley Changstrom telling officer Knight in the hotel’s main lobby that the woman, 28, had been found with Nichushkin by team staff at least 90 minutes before a 911 call was made for medical assistance. Changstrom tells Knight on the video that team officials “tried to get them in separate rooms” before Nichushkin left accompanied by the team’s security chief.
“We were trying to get her out of the room,” Changstrom told Knight. “And she was very clearly intoxicated. Very clearly, I could not send her in an Uber due to her safety.”
Changstrom also indicated in the video that he had been with the woman inside the room or standing outside the door for “an hour and a half to two hours” before she was brought to the hotel lobby by team personnel to await first responders’ arrival. Previously released public records stated that it took around five minutes for first responders to arrive after the 911 call was made at 3:20 p.m.
Changstrom added that he could not account for what had happened “the preceding 12 hours before that” and how long the woman had been inside the room with Nichushkin. The Avalanche forward had not attended the team’s morning skate around four hours before the 911 call.
Police did not ask on the video why the woman, who was not a guest at the hotel, had been moved from the room by team personnel if they believed her to be in medical distress. In the video, an ambulance technician and Changstrom said she was taken on a gurney from the hotel lobby to the ambulance outside but at one point tried to jump off — which led to police being called.
Changstrom said on the video that he and Avalanche security team member Todd Fuller — an active lieutenant in the Denver Police Department — had been with the woman inside the hotel room “trying to get clothes on her” and that she was combative and at one point struck him on the arm.
He added that the woman said she couldn’t find her credit card.
When Seattle police officer Knight asked Changstrom about Nichushkin, the doctor replied that the Avalanche player was “no longer here” and had left with team security director John Burbach. Changstrom was later asked by Knight whether any crime was said to have taken place inside the room, and he said no. Changstrom then said he had more details to share about the “medical health” of Nichushkin that day but wanted it kept confidential.
Audio of the doctor’s ensuing comments was redacted for nine seconds in the footage released by Seattle police, but a separate portion of video does have Knight summarizing the conversation for a supervisor by police radio, telling him on camera about Nichushkin: “They were getting him taken away for his own health and safety stuff.”
The Avalanche have declined to disclose why Nichushkin left the team hours before Game 3 of a playoff series the Kraken eventually won in seven games. Nichushkin did not play again in the series and has not been seen in public since, though Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said at the time he had been keeping in touch with the player.
Nichushkin’s disappearance prompted speculation about what might have happened. But initial police records released last month, including incident reports and 911 call audio, began to quash many of those theories and shifted focus instead to the hotel incident.
Though Nichushkin was mentioned as an “involved party” in the initial police report, his involvement and reasons for his departure were not disclosed.
Records released by police and the Seattle Fire Department — the first agency to respond to a 911 call made by Changstrom from the hotel — have not specified what they believed the woman to be intoxicated with. But in the video footage released Thursday, police officer Knight tells his partner: “It might be a drug or other situation.”
The other person shown on camera being interviewed in the hotel lobby by Knight is Fuller, the Denver Police Department lieutenant working as part of the Avalanche’s traveling security detail. The footage showed Fuller handing Knight a business card and telling him Nichushkin had already left the hotel accompanied by Burbach, a retired Denver police officer now serving as director of Avalanche security.
During their conversation, Fuller paused to take an incoming call from Burbach on his cellphone and confirmed after hanging up that he and Nichushkin had left the hotel. When Knight asked Fuller whether he’d witnessed any crime inside the hotel room, the Denver police lieutenant replied, “No” and added: “You saw my card, right?” in an apparent reference to his being a police officer.
Fuller added that the incident was “more of a detox issue” than a crime scene and said the woman had been “vacillating between cooperative and combative.”
She is seen telling Seattle police officer Beecroft while inside the ambulance that she was born in Ukraine but had come to the United States from Russia as a college student. When asked what university she was from, she appeared to reply “University of Arizona” more than once. Officer Beecroft, though, appears not to understand her in the video and is later seen telling his partner she could not name her school.
The woman also insisted multiple times that a man with her inside the hotel had taken her passport, pointing from the ambulance toward the hotel and saying “check the (security) cameras” for proof she was telling the truth. She also repeatedly asked the police officers and ambulance technicians: “How much money” they had been given to take her away from the hotel.
The Seattle Times made a series of public-disclosure requests in late April to police, firefighters and 911 emergency services about the hotel incident. Responsive records were released piecemeal, with Thursday’s footage being the last and most detailed.
None of the records indicates what subsequently happened with the woman after she was taken to a hospital. Attempts to locate her for an interview have been unsuccessful.