Crime & Justice

Man describes harrowing experience at hands of San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies

A booking photo released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department shows Francis Jared Pusok, who was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and felony reckless evasion of officers.
A booking photo released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department shows Francis Jared Pusok, who was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and felony reckless evasion of officers.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department

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The man beaten by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies said Monday that he was handcuffed almost immediately when deputies caught up with him after a two-and-a-half hour chase.

The incident occurred last Thursday afternoon after deputies tried to serve a search warrant during an identity theft investigation, and Pusok fled. He first drove a car, then stole a horse, according to sheriff’s officials.

“Within 15 seconds of me being on the ground, I was handcuffed,” Pusok told KPCC’s media partner KNBC.

Video shot by KNBC shows an apparently subdued Pusok being punched by deputies at least 30 times and kicked at least 15 times – with more than a dozen blows hitting him in the head.

The deputies “hit me in every place they could hit me – anywhere and everywhere,” he said in an often halting voice. He wore a dark suit and tie and sat next to his girlfriend, as he spoke with a reporter.

“I was just hoping for it to all end soon,” Pusok said. "I thought I was being beaten to death."

He also revealed something a deputy said to him during the incident. “I remember the cop's words – ‘this isn’t over,’” he recalled the deputy saying.

A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department would not comment on Pusok’s version of events.

“We will not be commenting about allegations from Mr. Pusok, his family, or his attorney,” spokeswoman Jodi Miller told KPCC.

Watching himself on the video is painful, Pusok said. “It takes me there again.”

Sheriff John McMahon has placed ten deputies on administrative leave. He called the video “disturbing.”

McMahon said last week that Pusok faced charges including felony evading of police, horse theft, and receiving stolen property. But a statement from the District Attorney’s office said no decision has been made on criminal charges. The DA did not say why.

Civil rights attorney Mark Eisenberg, who currently is suing the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department in another case, says rural San Bernardino County can be a hard place to find out about police abuse.

“There are fewer eyes on what transpires in a community like San Bernardino because it’s not as densely populated as LA or Orange County,” he said.

This incident occurred in a rural field of sagebrush south of Apple Valley, with only a KNBC TV news helicopter above to catch what happened.

“I’m reserving any kind of thoughts on policy changes,” County Supervisor Curt Hagman told KPCC. “I think we have to wait and see the investigation done.”

He expressed concern about what the county may have to pay as a result of the incident.

“Any kind of settlement comes out of the general fund, which takes away services and taxpayer dollars that can be used for the residents.”