Ten sheriff’s deputies were put on administrative leave Thursday pending an internal investigation of a wild chase where a suspect fled on horseback through the desert before being caught, Tased, kicked at least 15 times and hit with batons — 13 of the blows apparently to his head. (Source: NBCLA.com)
The pursuit and capture of the suspect, 30-year-old Francis Jared Pusok of Apple Valley, was all captured on video from a KNBC news helicopter.
The video shows at least 10 sheriff’s deputies standing around the suspect without rendering aid as he lies immobile on the ground for more than 45 minutes after the beating.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said the video "disturbed and troubled him" and appeared to show an excessive use of force.
The deputies were wearing audio recorders, but McMahon said he had not listened to them and the recordings will be part of the investigation.
McMahon said deputies had previously been called to Pusok's home where he allegedly made threats to kill a deputy and shot a puppy in front of family members. "We were very familiar with his aggressive nature," McMahon said.
In the video, Pusok is wearing bright red clothing. McMahon said the stun gun was apparently ineffective because of Pusok’s loose clothing.
The man falls face down with his arms and legs outstretched and puts his hands behind his back. At that point, two deputies appear to come up and kick him in the head and crotch. Other deputies arrive moments later and pile on.
The Associated Press reported that Pusok was treated at the hospital for abrasions, bruising and was then released for booking on suspicion of felony evading, theft of a horse, possession of stolen property and reckless driving.
Three deputies were reportedly injured during the search for Pusok, who was suspected of identity theft. Two of them suffered dehydration, KNBC reported, and a third was reportedly kicked by the horse.
The pursuit began when deputies served a warrant in an identity theft investigation. Pusok allegedly took off in a vehicle and deputies took off after him. Pusok ditched the vehicle 40 miles away, authorities said, then took off on foot.
Deputies used off-road vehicles and a helicopter to search for him, then found out the suspect had stolen a horse and fled through steep, rugged terrain. More deputies were dropped off by helicopter to join the chase.
When the deputies caught up with Pusok, the horse bucked him off, and the deputies Tased him, then kicked and beat him with batons.
American Civil Liberties Union attorneys released a statement saying the were “deeply troubled by the video images that appear to show San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies beating a man after he surrendered.”
Attorneys for Pusok told KNBC-TV Friday as they left the jail that their client has a badly swollen eye, marks from the beating over his face and body, and is in pain.
"He remembers being beat, and he remembers that he wasn't resisting, that he laid still, he complied immediately. He says that he didn't even move a muscle because he didn't want to be continuously beat, yet it still happened," said attorney Sharon Brunner.
After the beating, a deputy whispered in his ear: "This isn't over,'" attorney Jim Terrell said.