California police caught beating horseman put on leave

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Ten sheriff's deputies involved in the violent arrest of a suspect on horseback in California have been put on leave after being caught on video kicking and beating the man repeatedly, officials said Friday.

San Bernardino County sheriff John McMahon said he was "disturbed" by footage of the arrest of Francis Jared Pusok, 30, a white male with a lengthy criminal record.

Video taken by a television news crew showed him being kicked 13 times, punched 37 times and struck four times with batons, according to local media reports.

McMahon said Friday the 10 officers were being placed on leave as an investigation into the incident was carried out.

"We have identified 10 deputies involved in the use of force during the arrest and they have been placed on paid administrative leave" McMahon told a news conference.

"I ask the citizens for their patience while we conduct a thorough investigation."

The results of the investigation would be submitted to the local district attorney's office to determine if charges would be filed, McMahon added.

The violent arrest occurred in desert scrub in Apple Valley, 130km from Los Angeles.

It came five days after a white police officer in the South Carolina city of North Charleston was caught on video gunning down a fleeing African American suspect.

The officer, Michael Slager, has since been charged with the murder of Walter Scott, 50, and fired from the force, in the latest fatal confrontation in the United States between white police officers and unarmed black suspects.

Pusok was being served a warrant related to an identity theft investigation when he first fled on foot, then stole a horse, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

From the KNBC television video, it appeared Pusok was zapped with a Taser when he fell off the horse, after which the deputies began striking him.

He remained on the ground for 45 minutes, getting no medical attention before he was taken to the hospital, the television station reported.

The sheriff's department acknowledged that "use of force occurred" after the Taser proved ineffective due to "loose clothing" that Pusok was wearing.

Three deputies also got medical treatment - two for dehydration and a third who got kicked by the horse, which itself sustained "numerous injuries."

Court records show Pusok had prior convictions for resisting arrest, animal cruelty, disturbing the peace, attempted robbery and failure to prove evidence of financial responsibility, KNBC said.

Pusok made local news headlines in November 2013 when he was arrested at his Apple Valley home after allegedly threatening his girlfriend and shooting a dog.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.