The FBI today said it will launch an investigation into the beating of a pursuit suspect by San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputies yesterday.
The attack that included dozens of punches and kicks to the man's head and body as he laid face down with his hands behind his back was captured on video (below) by an NBC Los Angeles helicopter crew that was covering the chase.
In a statement, the bureau said agents would try to determine if “civil rights were violated during a pursuit and altercation involving Francis Pusok and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies on April 9, 2015.”
The results of the FBI's inquiry will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. and to the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, where officials will decide if further investigation or even prosecution is warranted, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
Today San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said that all 10 law officers involved in the beating were placed on leave as his department conducts “administrative” and criminal investigations.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office will also conduct its own inquiry to determine if laws were broken by the deputies.
Last night Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU SoCal, had this to say about the violent apprehension:
… We are deeply troubled by the video images that appear to show San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies beating a man after he surrendered, placing his hands behind his back. Once again video has provided an important account of what really happened, this time in San Bernardino County. While we applaud Sheriff John McMahon’s prompt decision to investigate the disturbing actions of his deputies, we believe more is needed. Too often the department has failed to address questions, including those raised by the ACLU SoCal, about use of force and Taser policies.
Sheriff McMahon called some of the use of force he saw “excessive,” but he urged the public to be patient and let investigators do their thing. The San Bernardino department said today that it has been receiving threats via phone calls and social media following the beating.
Pusok was wanted in connection with an identity theft case, but when deputies went to grab him he allegedly took off in a vehicle and eventually ended up on a horse that he either fell off of or that bucked him off, authorities said.
Soon he was face down in the dirt, surrounded by deputies who started to punch and kick him. The suspect ended up in a hospital, where he was treated for cuts and bruises, sheriff's officials said. The law officers ended up in some very hot water.
Pusok was booked into jail on suspicion of evading police, stealing a horse, possessing stolen property, and for a warrant alleging reckless driving, the San Bernardino department said in a statement today.
His bail was set at $115,000.