The FBI on Friday opened an investigation into the actions of California sheriff’s deputies seen in a video repeatedly kicking and punching a man who led them on an hours-long chase on horseback a day earlier.
Ten San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies involved in the violent arrest of Francis Jared Pusok, 30, have been placed on administrative leave while internal and criminal investigations are conducted, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said Friday.
“I am disturbed and troubled by what I see in the video,” San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said at a press conference. The deputies placed on leave were not named.
The footage, recorded by an NBC Los Angeles helicopter Thursday, shows Pusok being thrown from the horse and lying on the ground in an apparent act of surrender before two deputies begin kicking and punching him.
One deputy begins by kicking Pusok in the head, and the second kicks him in the groin. Other deputies then arrive and join in, the video shows.
McMahon said Pusok appears in the video to move his arms and he may have kicked his legs at one point, but he doubted whether the level of force used was necessary.
“Regardless, at the end of the day it appears to be excessive,” McMahon said.
The chase began when deputies tried to serve a search warrant at a home near Apple Valley as part of an identity theft investigation at 12:12 p.m. Thursday, the sheriff’s office said.
Pusok fled in a vehicle, abandoned the car and ran off on foot near San Bernardino National Forest, and later stole a horse from a group at a hot springs and fled into steep, rugged terrain, the sheriff’s office said.
About two hours after the chase started, three deputies landed in a sheriff’s helicopter, spooking the horse, which threw Pusok off, at which point he lies down. A deputy used a Taser stun gun on Pusok but the barbs didn’t penetrate his clothes, McMahon said, and the deputies are seen kicking and punching him shortly thereafter.
“If there is criminal wrongdoing, we will take action,” he said.
The deputies placed on administrative leave were “involved in the use of force in one way or another,” McMahon said. He said one of the deputies is a sergeant and one is a detective, but would not give additional details about them. McMahon said he would release their names if threats made against them are determined to be unfounded.
Pusok was treated for abrasions and bruising, released from the hospital and booked at the West Valley Detention Center, McMahon said. Two officers were also treated for abrasions and bruising and released from the hospital, McMahon said.
Pusok is charged with felony evading, stolen property, reckless driving and theft of a horse, McMahon said.
Pusok’s girlfriend, Jolene Bindner, said she is perplexed as to why the deputies thought it was necessary to beat him after using a Taser on him and why so many had to join into the pummeling.
“These are the people that are sworn in, right, to protect people, and this is what they do,” she said.
Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.