Ten Los Angeles police officers are under investigation after a TV news video caught them brutally punching and kicking suspect Francis Pusok following his failed attempt to escape on horseback.
Footage of the attack shows Pusok, 30, being repeatedly struck while he was lying on the ground with his hands behind his back.
During the beating, which involved as many as 11 deputies and lasted for about two minutes, Pusok was kicked in the head and groin and kneed about a dozen times and punched more than two dozen times, according to the video (above).
He was also shot with a Taser stun gun.
Coming days after a white police officer in South Carolina was charged with murder after shooting a black motorist in the back as he tried to flee after a traffic stop – an incident also filmed by a bystander – the video has raised disturbing new questions about policing in America.
Pusok allegedly ditched his car and led police on a three-hour pursuit on horseback on Thursday in Apple Valley in San Bernardino, California.
Police said they were serving a search warrant to Pusok in connection with an identity-theft investigation when he fled.
He is seen falling off the horse he stole in his bid to escape and was then set on by the pursuing officers. The incident was filmed by a news helicopter hovering overhead apparently unnoticed by the lawmen.
Pusok has a string of run-ins with the law in the past, including arrests for fighting, attempted robbery and cruelty to an animal, reported the LA Times. He has been hospitalised with injuries he is expected to survive, and three deputies were injured in the search, according to authorities.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Police Officers Involved Have Been Put on Paid Leave
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said ten officers have been put on paid administrative leave while the internal investigation is carried out.
“The video surrounding this arrest is disturbing, and I have ordered an internal investigation be conducted immediately,” he said in a statement. “In addition, members of the Specialized Investigations Detail are responding to conduct the criminal investigation.”
“We’ll figure out exactly what happened and proceed from there whether there was criminal wrongdoing on the part of our deputies,” McMahon told the LA Times.
Former Los Angeles police Capt. Greg Meyer, an expert on police use of force, described the video as “ugly.”
“This is a highly concerning video,” he said.
The case will be handled by the county’s district attorney, who will determine if criminal charges are warranted.
2. Pusok Has Three Children And Another on The Way
Pusok, who went to Pacific High School, San Bernardino, and lives in Apple Valley, California, according to his Facebook page, has been dating Jolene Bindner for 13 years. She’s the mother of his three children and is expecting a fourth, reported the LA Times.
Anne Clemenson, Pusok’s mother, told the Times that she and Bindner had not been able to see Pusok, who was being held at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on suspicion of felony evading, theft of a horse, possessing stolen property and on a warrant for reckless driving.
3. His Girlfriend Says he Was ‘Jumped’
“I feel like they’re trying to paint a picture of him as a bad guy and deserving of it,” Pusok’s longtime girlfriend Jolene Bindner told the LA Times. “He was jumped.”
“I couldn’t believe it. The first thing I said was, ‘They can’t do that.’ That is first thing out of my mouth was that, ‘They cannot do that,’ ” said Bindner.
Bindner described Pusok as a great father but admits he’s had several run-ins with the law.
4. He Has a Rap Sheet Spanning More Than a Decade
Pusok’s rap sheet goes as far back as 2002, reports CBS. His brushes with the law include: driving on a sidewalk at an unsafe speed in 2002; attempted robbery in 2006; fighting in 2011; cruelty to an animal in 2013; resisting an officer in 2013; and obstructing or resisting an officer in 2014.
“I’m not gonna stand here and say that he’s perfect, because who is?” Bindner asked.
5. His Lawyer Says Attack Was ‘Worse Than Rodney King’ Beating
‘What I saw on the television was thugs beating up my client. This is far worse than Rodney King,’ said Pusok’s lawyer Jim Terrell, referring to the attack by four policeman on a black taxi driver in 1991.
The acquittal of the officers involved led to the Los Angeles riots the following year in which 53 people were killed and nearly 2,000 were injured.
“These are bad cops whether it’s Ferguson, Missouri, or right here in Apple Valley. This stuff’s got to stop,” Terrell said.
Pusok’s family is considering a civil suit.