A California sheriff has suspended 10 deputies involved in a brutal beating of a suspect on Thursday that was caught on camera by a news helicopter, according to authorities.
John McMahon, sheriff of San Bernardino County, announced his decision to place the deputies on leave at a news conference Friday. McMahon said he was “disturbed” by the video and said it “appears to be excessive.”
“I am disturbed and troubled by what I see,” he said, referring to the footage of officers kicking and punching Francis Pusok, 30, who can be seen lying face down on the ground during the beating after he’s been shot by a Taser. “It does not appear to be in line with our policies and procedures.”
Pusok was treated at a local hospital for abrasions and bruises, then booked on multiple criminal charges, including felony evasion, theft of a horse, possession of stolen property. He also has an active warrant for reckless driving.
His bail was set at $115,000.
McMahon promised a “thorough investigation” and asked for patience while his department reviews the incident.
The FBI has launched a separate investigation into the arrest and beating to determine whether Pusok’s civil rights were violated, according to the San Bernardino Sun.
“The results of the review will be forwarded to the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California, and the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, in Washington, D.C., to determine whether further investigation and/or prosecution is warranted,” according to a statement released Friday by the federal agency, the Sun reported.
McMahon told reporters the incident began when deputies arrived at a residence to serve a search warrant as part of an identity-theft investigation on Thursday.
Pusok fled the scene in a vehicle, McMahon said, before ditching the car, fleeing on foot and eventually stealing a horse.
“Pusok continued to evade deputies, riding the horse four to five miles of sometimes steep, rocky and rugged terrain,” he said, noting that several officers became dehydrated and were injured during the chase.
Video footage shows the moments when deputies finally caught up with Pusok and he fell off the stolen horse. He then appears to be hit with a Taser and falls to the ground. He is seen with his hands initially outstretched but puts them behind his back just before the first two officers on the scene appear to begin beating and kicking him. The beating continues for minutes.
The number of officers at the scene grows to 11, and others appear to join in.
“In the two minutes after the man was stunned with a Taser, it appeared deputies kicked him 17 times, punched him 37 times and struck him with batons four times. Thirteen blows appeared to be to the head. The horse stood idly nearby.
The man did not appear to move from his position lying on the ground for more than 45 minutes. He did not appear to receive medical attention while deputies stood around him during that time.”
Since the video was released, McMahon told reporters Friday, the sheriff’s department has received multiple threatening e-mails, phone calls and posts on social media. He said his department will not release the deputies’ names if those threats are found to be credible.
McMahon said deputies involved in the three-hour pursuit were familiar with Pusok.
During a prior domestic call, McMahon said, Pusok “made threats to kill a deputy sheriff and in fact shot a puppy in front of part of his family.”
Pusok’s mother, Anne Clemenson, said she wanted the deputies involved in Thursday’s incident to be fired, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“I want them done,” she said. “I’ve always thought that police are to serve and protect and what they did … it was not called for.”
“I feel like they’re trying to paint a picture of him as a bad guy and deserving of it,” she added. “He was jumped.”