The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in California ordered an internal investigation after aerial footage was publicized showing deputies beating a man believed to have stolen a horse at the conclusion of a 2 1/2-hour chase in the desert. Shot by a television station crew, the video shows deputies kicking and punching Francis Pusok, 30, as he complies with their directives and does not resist arrest.
County Sheriff John McMahon put 10 deputies on leave after the incident and said the video left him “disturbed and troubled,” but he urged patience as the internal investigation moves forward. The sheriff’s department reportedly received violent threats after the video was made public.
“I’m not sure if there was a struggle with the suspect. It appears there was in the early parts of the video,” McMahon said, according to KNBC-TV, whose crew shot the footage of the beating. “What happens afterwards, I’m not sure of, but we will investigate it thoroughly.”
The video shows Pusok falling off the allegedly stolen horse after a deputy incapacitates him with a Taser. The suspect is then seen surrendering and putting his hands behind his back so he could be handcuffed. During the next two minutes, he is seen being punched 37 times, kicked 17 times and hit with a police baton four times by a group of San Bernardino deputies.
After the beating, Pusok was left lying face down on the ground for 45 minutes without medical care. He was taken to a hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries, while an unknown number of deputies were treated for dehydration.
Pusok’s attorney, Jim Terrell, called the deputies involved “bad cops” who were attempted to deflect criticism of themselves by questioning the suspect’s conduct.
Pusok’s mother, Anne Clemenson, strongly criticized the deputies, as well. “To Tase him, the beatings that I see them doing to him -- it’s uncalled for,” she said. “You see him laying down, and they continue to kick him, hitting him and punching him. Why?”
Pusok was reportedly known to the sheriff’s department, with convictions for resisting arrest, failure to provide evidence of financial responsibility, disturbing the peace, attempted robbery and animal cruelty, KNBC reported. The chase began after deputies tried to serve a search warrant in relation to an identity-theft investigation, the Associated Press said.