'Disturbing' arrest after stolen horse pursuit prompts investigation

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San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner John McMahon has ordered an internal investigation after several deputies were caught on video repeatedly kicking and punching a suspect at the end of a horseback pursuit Thursday.

A Southern California sheriff on Thursday ordered an immediate investigation after deputies were recorded beating and kicking a man who fled in a car and on horseback.

The "disturbing" footage was captured by a TV station and appeared to show the suspect on the ground with his hands held behind his back.

"This is as bad, if not worse, than what they did to Rodney King. This was terrible. They kept going and going and going," family attorney Jim Terrell told ABC affiliate KABC-TV.

"The video surrounding this arrest is disturbing," San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner John McMahon said in a statement sent Thursday just a few hours after the chase ended. He ordered both an administrative and a criminal investigation.

Shortly after noon, deputies tried to serve a search warrant on an Apple Valley man in connection with an identity-theft investigation, but Francis Pusok, 30, took off in a car, according to a Sheriff's Department statement.

After a chase into the Hesperia area, Pusok abandoned the car and ran off. Deputies searched for him on foot, with off-road vehicles and by helicopter, the statement said.

Pusok then stole a horse from a group of people at the Deep Creek Hot Springs, the statement said.

KNBC-TV helicopter footage showed a man dressed in bright red clothing trotting a horse through rugged desert.

The footage then shows the horse appearing to veer or shy as a helicopter sweeps over it. The man then falls or is thrown off the horse.

A deputy runs up, falls, gets up again and uses an electric shock gun on the man. However, the Sheriff's Department statement said the Taser was ineffective because Pusok was wearing loose clothing.

The video shows the man falling face-down with his arms and legs outstretched, then rising briefly and falling again spread-eagled. Two deputies then appear to come up and kick him in the head and crotch. They then appear to begin pounding him.

Other deputies arrive moments later.

KNBC-TV said up to 13 deputies eventually surrounded the man, and some of them kicked, hit and punched him dozens of times over a two-minute period.

Pusok's attorney said to him the video showed "thugs beating up my client."

"They beat the crap out of him, and now they're trying to do everything that they can to avoid them being in any trouble," Terrell told KABC-TV.

Pusok's girlfriend of 13 years Jolene Bindner said he has had several run-ins with the law but is a great father. They have three daughters and a son on the way.

"I'm not going to stand here and say that he's perfect, because who is?" she told the TV station.

"I couldn't believe it," Bindner said after seeing the video. "The first thing I said was 'they cannot do that.'"

Pusok was taken to a local hospital with unknown injuries, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Two deputies suffered dehydration, a third was kicked by the horse and all were taken to a hospital for treatment, the statement said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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