On Thursday, a suspected horse thief, who had attempted to evade police on horseback in San Bernardino County, CA, was captured after he was thrown from the allegedly stolen horse on which he fled. However, as deputies moved in to make the arrest, they first deployed a Taser, and then, after the suspect appeared to surrender, continued beating him for nearly two more minutes, striking him with punches, kicks, knees, and batons. The incident was caught on video by NBC Los Angeles‘ news helicopter.
The suspect, 30-year-old Apple Valley man Francis Pusok, lay motionless for around 45 minutes after the assault as deputies stood by without attempting to provide medical attention. Officials with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said that Pusok has been hospitalized but is expected to survive. Three deputies suffered injuries during the pursuit, as two became dehydrated and another was kicked by the allegedly stolen horse.
After seeing the video, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon launched an investigation into the deputies’ actions. Said Sheriff McMahon, “I can certainly understand the concerns in the community based on what they saw on the video… I’m disturbed by what I see in the video. But I don’t need to jump to conclusions at this point, until we do a complete and thorough investigation. If our deputy sheriffs did something wrong, they’ll be put off work and they’ll be dealt with appropriately, all in accordance with the law as well as our department policy.”
Deputies on the scene say that the Taser did not work and that a struggle ensued as a result, leading to an escalation of force. In the above video, the suspect appears to collapse helplessly after the Taser is deployed. Sheriff McMahon said, “I’m not sure if there was a struggle with the suspect… It appears there was in the early parts of the video. What happens afterwards, I’m not sure of, but we will investigate it thoroughly.”
Jim Terrell, Pusok’s attorney, told CBS Los Angeles that Pusok is considering filing a civil lawsuit. “What I saw on the television was thugs beating up my client. That’s what I saw… This is far worse than Rodney King,” said Terrell. He says the officers responsible should be fired and arrested. “I want to know what these cops past records are. Did they just start being thugs or have they been thugs for years?… These are bad cops whether it’s Ferguson, Missouri, or right here in Apple Valley. This stuff’s got to stop.”
NBC Los Angeles notes that the incident began with two deputies assaulting the suspect and ended with eleven officers swarming onto the scene. Pusok appeared to sustain at least 17 kicks, 4 baton strikes, and 37 punches.
“How can you be tased and still feel it’s necessary to beat him like that? I don’t understand,” said Jolene Bindner, the suspect’s girlfriend.
The pursuit began when San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies attempted to serve a search warrant at a residence in Apple Valley as a part of an identity theft investigation. When they arrived, Pusok initially fled in a vehicle before abandoning it and allegedly stealing a horse in an effort to continue his evasion of authorities. Pusak’s prior convictions include attempted robbery, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, animal cruelty, and driving on a sidewalk at an unsafe speed.