The San Bernardino County Sheriff ordered an internal investigation Thursday into an arrest caught on NBC Los Angeles' NewsChopper4 video that showed deputies beating a suspect when they caught up to him following a wild desert chase on horseback.
Aerial footage showed the man falling off the horse he was suspected of stealing during the pursuit in San Bernardino County Thursday afternoon.
He then appeared to be stunned with a Taser by a sheriff's deputy and fall to the ground with his arms outstretched. Two deputies immediately descended on him and appeared to punch him in the head and knee him in the groin, according to the footage, reviewed several times by NBC4.
The group surrounding the man grew to 11 sheriff's deputies.
In the two minutes after the man was stunned with a Taser, it appeared deputies kicked him 17 times, punched him 37 times and struck him with batons four times. Thirteen blows appeared to be to the head. The horse stood idly nearby.
The man did not appear to move from his position lying on the ground for more than 45 minutes. He did not appear to receive medical attention while deputies stood around him during that time.
The man, identified as Francis Jared Pusok, 30, of Apple Valley, was hospitalized with unknown injuries, authorities said.
Pusok's mother Anne Clemenson blasted the conduct of the deputies, and said she still does not know where her son is, or what condition he is in following the arrest.
"To me, it was like a joyride for the cops to do this to him. (It was) brutality. He didn't deserve something like that," Clemenson said, "To Tase him, the beatings that I see them doing to him — it's uncalled for. You see him laying down, and they continue to kick him, hitting him and punching him. Why?"
His girlfriend, Jolene Bindner, said she hasn't been able to get answers from the Sheriff's Department about Pusok's condition, let alone what hospital he's at.
"They have not told me a thing," she said. "How can you be tased and still feel it's necessary to beat him like that? I don't understand."
Three deputies were injured during the search. Two suffered dehydration and a third was injured when kicked by the horse. All three were taken to a hospital for treatment.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told NBC4 he was launching an internal investigation into the actions of the deputies.
"I'm not sure if there was a struggle with the suspect," McMahon said. "It appears there was in the early parts of the video. What happens afterwards, I'm not sure of, but we will investigate it thoroughly."
The series of events started when deputies from the Victor Valley station went to a home on Zuni Road to serve a search warrant in an identity theft investigation, authorities said in a news release.
The suspect took off in a vehicle and deputies initiated a pursuit through unincorporated Apple Valley, the town of Apple Valley and unincorporated Hesperia. The area is more than 80 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Pusok allegedly abandoned the vehicle 40 miles away from Hesperia in a place called Bowen Ranch where he took off running.
During a search on foot, with off-road vehicles and by helicopter, deputies learned the suspect had stolen a horse and rode it on dirt trails through rugged, steep terrain, causing numerous injuries to the horse.
A sheriff's helicopter inserted a team of deputies to take the suspect into custody. As deputies made contact with Pusok, the horse threw him off.
Deputies said the Taser was ineffective due to his loose clothing and a use of force occurred.
"I can certainly understand the concerns in the community based on what they saw on the video," McMahon said. "I'm disturbed by what I see in the video. But I don't need to jump to conclusions at this point, until we do a complete and thorough investigation. If our deputy sheriff's did something wrong, they'll be put off work and they'll be dealt with appropriately, all in accordance with the law as well as our department policy."
San Bernardino Superior Court records show Pusok has convictions for resisting arrest, animal cruelty, disturbing the peace, attempted robbery and failure to provide evidence of financial responsibility.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement that while they understand police officers are authorized to use force, they "are deeply troubled by the video images that appear to show San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies beating a man after he surrendered."