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 said Friday night that it has opened an investigation into whether the deputies violated the suspect’s civil rights.
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.