Police put on leave after violent arrest of horse thief in California
A California sheriff placed 10 deputies on paid administrative leave Friday after news video recorded the violent arrest of a man fleeing authorities on horse.
The beating came as recent violent episodes by officers dealing with suspects have provoked outrage after being captured on video, including the shooting death of an unarmed man as he ran from a police officer last weekend in South Carolina.
In California, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said the video “disturbed and troubled him” and appeared to show an excessive use of force.
McMahon announced the action after 30-year-old Francis Pusok was arrested by deputies in a violent encounter filmed by a KNBCTV helicopter. Pusok fled by car and then on a stolen horse, traveling several miles while deputies chased him on foot, after deputies tried to serve a search warrant in an identity-theft investigation Thursday.
The video shows the man dressed in bright red clothing falling from the horse as a deputy runs up and uses a stun gun on him. McMahon said the stun gun was believed to be ineffective because of the man’s loose clothing.
The man falls face down with his arms and legs outstretched and put his hands behind his back. The video shows two deputies appearing to come up and kick him in the head and crotch. Other deputies arrive moments later.
Two deputies received injuries including abrasions, a twisted knee and a back injury from being struck by the horse. Pusok had abrasions and bruising. He was booked on suspicion of felony evading, theft of a horse, possession of stolen property and reckless driving.
McMahon said there is an internal and criminal investigation, which looks at Pusok’s and the deputies’ actions.
He said the department won’t release the names of deputies, including a sergeant and a detective, until they’re sure that multiple threats made aren’t valid.
The deputies were wearing au- dio recorders, but McMahon said he had not listened to them and the recordings will be part of the investigation.
Attorneys for Pusok told KNBCTV 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.
“And that’s why he’s scared to death for himself and his family right now,” Terrell said.
In this frame from video provided by KNBC-TV, officers beat and kick a man near Apple Valley, California on Thursday, April 9.