The settlement was negotiated between the county’s counsel, Pusok, and his attorneys, Jim Terrell and Sharon Brunner, on Friday. It was unanimously approved by county supervisors in a closed session meeting Tuesday, with neither a claim nor a lawsuit filed, county spokesman David Wert said.
The speed in which the matter was resolved by all parties is unprecedented in the county’s history.
“We don’t keep records of how long it takes to settle matters from the date of occurrence, but I can’t recall anything being resolved this quickly,” Wert said Tuesday.
The settlement was not an admission of guilt or liability on the county’s part, Wert said.
“The sole purpose of this settlement is to avoid the cost of litigation,” Wert said. “Even if a case never made it to trial, both sides would probably spend millions of dollars getting it to trial, so $650,000 is probably quite a bit of savings over what would have been spent had this gone to litigation.”
Terrell and Brunner released a joint statement Tuesday saying Pusok and his family were pleased that the settlement had been reached, and that it was never about money.
“It has always been and will continue to be about the personal safety of Mr. Pusok and his family, free from police harassment and abuse that they have had to endure,” Terrell and Brunner said in their statement. “This case stands for the valuable rights that all Americans have as provided by our U.S. Constitution.”
The settlement, said Terrell and Brunner, was remarkable in that it hinged solely on the strength of the video of the beating, which they characterized as a “violent and brutal attack by San Bernardino County deputies on a private citizen.” They said it was the county that initiated the settlement negotiations.
“It is hoped that the national attention this case gained will be a catalyst to bring about the necessary reform and change within our county and throughout the United States,” Terrell and Brunner said in their statement. “Change is obviously needed.”
In an interview on Friday, Pusok said he feared for his safety as he fled deputies on April 9, citing previous violent encounters with sheriff’s deputies and San Bernardino police officers, who he said beat and kicked him during encounters without justification. He said he feared not only for his safety, but for the safety of his family and unborn son as well.
Pusok, a convicted felon with a string of felony and misdemeanor convictions over the last 10 years, including resisting arrest, animal cruelty and attempted robbery, led sheriff’s deputies on a 3-hour pursuit — in a vehicle, on foot and on horseback — through Apple Valley and into Hesperia. The pursuit began after deputies attempted to serve a search warrant at an Apple Valley residence in connection with an identity theft investigation, authorities said.
Pusok ditched the vehicle during the pursuit, allegedly stole a horse from the Deep Creek Hot Springs area and fled through rugged terrain, causing numerous injuries to the horse. Two deputies suffered dehydration and a third was injured after being kicked by the stolen horse, according to a Sheriff’s Department news release.
As an NBC helicopter hovered overhead shooting video of the pursuit, Pusok is seen in the video falling off the horse, getting up and trying to flee as an approaching deputy fires his Taser gun at him. Pusok fell to the ground, and as he put his hands behind his back, two deputies ran up and began kicking and punching Pusok in the face, legs and head, appearing to strike Pusok with their Taser guns.
The 10 deputies involved in the incident were immediately placed on paid administrative leave, and criminal investigations are now being conducted by both the Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. The Sheriff’s Department is also conducting an administrative investigation into the incident.
Sheriff John McMahon released a statement Tuesday saying he supports the action of the Board of Supervisors in negotiating the settlement with Pusok, that the investigations continue, and further details will be released as they become available.
Meanwhile, the names of the deputies have not been released, as death threats continue pouring in at the Sheriff’s Department, sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.
“We’re receiving threats through our social media, through e-mails and phone calls. Employees in the department are receiving threatening messages,” Miller said. “The investigation is continuing on those threats, and the names of the deputies involved will not be released until those threats are determined to be unwarranted.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman James Ramos said in a statement Tuesday that the settlement was “a fair outcome for everyone involved, including taxpayers.”
Wert said the settlement in no way affects the ongoing criminal and administrative investigations against the 10 sheriff’s deputies involved in the incident or against any potential criminal charges against Pusok stemming from the pursuit.