10 Calif. deputies put on leave after suspect’s beating – USA TODAY
Ten Southern California deputies have been placed on leave after news video showed them kicking and beating an identity-theft suspect who fell off a stolen horse during a three-hour pursuit that ended in the desert, the San Bernardino County sheriff announced Friday.
Sheriff John McMahon said the force used by his deputies Thursday afternoon while arresting 30-year-old Francis Jared Pusok, a convicted felon, “appears to be excessive,” he said at a news conference.
He said he was “disturbed and troubled” by what he saw in the video shot by a KNBC-TV helicopter crew about 3 p.m. Thursday.
“It appears in the beginning his hands were behind his back, then his hands moved,” McMahon said. “There is some information that he may be kicking at one point. Regardless, at the end of the day it appears to be excessive. It does not appear to be in line with our policies and procedures.”
He appealed for patience as the department and the district attorney investigate the action of Pusok and the deputies.
The FBI has also opened an investigation of the deputies’ actions, NBC News reported Friday night.
McMahon did not name the deputies placed on paid administrative leave. He said their identities may be made public after the department investigates alleged threats made against them since the video appeared.
After apparently being thrown from the horse in the rugged high desert of Victor Valley, about 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Pusok falls to the ground with his arms out after being shot with a Taser, the video shows. Two deputies then pounce on him, punching him in the head and kneeing him in the groin.
Other deputies then arrived, and KNBC reported that in the two minutes after Pusok was hit by the Taser, deputies appeared to kick him 17 times, punch him 37 times and hit him with batons four times. The station said 13 blows appeared to be to Pusok’s head.
Pusok did not appear to move while lying face down for more than 45 minutes , and the deputies did not appear to offer medical attention. He was arrested and taken to an unspecified area hospital to be treated for his injuries.
Pusok’s mother said Thursday night that the sheriff’s department would not tell her what hospital he was taken to or the extent of his injuries.
“To me, it was like a joyride for the cops to do this to him. (It was) brutality. He didn’t deserve something like that,” Anne Clemenson told KNBC. “To Tase him, the beatings that I see them doing to him — it’s uncalled for. You see him laying down, and they continue to kick him, hitting him and punching him. Why?”
Attorneys representing Pusok said his injuries include a bruised eye and possible concussion.
“He remembers being beat, and he remembers that he wasn’t resisting — that he was laying still,” attorney Sharon Brunner told KNBC. “He complied immediately. He says that he didn’t even move a muscle because he didn’t want to be continuously beat.”
Pusok also claims one deputy threatned him afterward, whispering in his ear, “This isn’t over,” said attorney Jim Terrell, adding that his client is “scared to death for himself and his family.”
San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos called the video “extremely upsetting” said “I understand the public’s concern.”
“I have the utmost faith in the Sheriff’s Department to conduct a full and complete investigation of this incident,” Ramos said. “At that time, if there is any misconduct, and I have said this repeatedly before, we will take the appropriate action.”
The pursuit began about 12:15 p.m. PT Thursday when deputies went to Pusok’s Apple Valley home to serve a warrant for identify theft, the sheriff’s department said in a news release. Pusok fled in a vehicle and led them on a chase before abandoning the vehicle about 40 miles from Hespiria and running into the desert. During the pursuit in ATVs and a helicopter, deputies learned Pusok had stolen a horse from a group of riders near Deep Creek Hot Springs.
Two deputies suffered dehydration and a third was kicked by the horse, which suffered unspecified injuries during the chase.
Pusok is due in court Monday in Victorville on charges of suspicion of felony evading a law enforcement officer, theft of horse, possession of stolen property and an outstanding warrant for reckless driving.
Court records show Pusok pleaded no contest in 2006 to felony attempted robbery after demanding money or drugs at gunpoint from a couple in their car parked outside a Target store, the San Bernardino Sun reported. In 2013, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor resisting arrest and animal cruelty for shooting his girlfriend’s dog.