From: The Press Enterprise
By Brian Rokos and Peter Surowski 5/11/15
San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Nick Downey watched as the first deputy to reach horse-theft suspect Francis Jared Pusok at the end of a long pursuit tried unsuccessfully to disable him with a Taser shock.
Downey, trailing the other deputy by several feet, caught up to the two men as Pusok was lying on his stomach and moving his arms. The movement scared Downey, his attorney said, so Downey kicked Pusok.
Downey was among eight deputies, a detective and a sergeant who were identified Monday, May 11, as the 10 who were involved in the April 9 arrest south of Apple Valley – caught on video by a news helicopter – in which Pusok was punched and kicked as he laid on the ground with his arms behind his back.
The seven other deputies are Scott Hamilton, Dominic Moody and David Moore of the sheriff’s Victor Valley station; Charles Foster of the Hesperia station; Tyler McGee of the Apple Valley station; and Raymond Perez and Michael Phelps of the Twin Peaks station.
The detective was William Doemner, and the sergeant was James Evans, both of the Victor Valley station.
Sheriff’s officials waited more than a month to release the deputies’ names, saying they needed to investigate threats made against them to be sure they were unsubstantiated. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said Monday that none of the threats was found to be credible and that no arrests were made.
All 10 remain on paid administrative leave while the Sheriff’s Department and the FBI conduct criminal and internal investigations. None of the deputies has been arrested or charged.
The Safety Employee Benefits Association, the union that represents peace officers in San Bernardino County, is making money available for deputies to use in their defense in the internal investigation and in the event criminal charges are filed.
‘ONE SMALL WINDOW’
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said the day after the beating, “It appears to be excessive to me based on what I saw in the video.”
Michael D. Schwartz, who is representing Downey, urged the public Monday to withhold judgment until all the facts are available.
“The video is one small window into what happened,” Schwartz said. “These cases historically have panned out to be much larger than one small snippet of video.”
Schwartz said the view of Pusok’s actions from the KNBC helicopter was not the same as the deputies’ view.
Schwartz has had success representing law enforcement clients whose actions were taped.
Among them was former Fullerton police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, who was acquitted in 2014 of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in the death of homeless man Kelly Thomas.
Another client was former San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Ivory J. Webb, who in 2007 was acquitted of attempted manslaughter in the 2006 shooting of unarmed Airman Elio Carrion.
A VIOLENT ARREST
The morning of April 9, sheriff’s officials had searched Pusok’s Apple Valley residence in relation to an April 6 burglary, but Pusok was not present.
Later, deputies returned to the area to serve search warrants in an identity theft case that Pusok was not involved in, sheriff’s officials said. But when Pusok saw them, he fled in his vehicle, and deputies gave chase.
Pusok eventually abandoned the vehicle, took a passerby’s horse and rode into the High Desert hills, causing several injuries to the animal as it trotted over rough, rocky terrain, sheriff’s officials said.
When Pusok fell off the horse, the news video shows him briefly trying to hide in a bush, and then dropping to the ground on his stomach with his arms and legs stretched out as the first two deputies catch up to him. The first deputy shoots a Taser at him, but officials said it was ineffective because his clothing was too thick.
The second deputy – Downey – arrives just as Pusok moves his arms to clasp his hands behind his back. Downey kicks him in his head area and the first deputy kicks him in the crotch. They begin punching him, and over the next minute and a half, eight more sheriff’s personnel arrive and join in the fray.
With multiple people surrounding him, the view of what Pusok was doing becomes obscured.
Pusok was arrested on suspicion of evading arrest, horse theft and receiving stolen property. He has not been charged in that case, or in the April 6 burglary.
He does, however, have several past convictions, including two for resisting a law enforcement officer.
None of the suspended deputies appeared to have been involved in those cases, according to court records.
Within two weeks of the beating, Pusok reached a civil settlement with the county for $650,000, out of which about $31,000 was withheld due to unpaid child support, records show. The county did not admit to wrongdoing; officials said they settled to avoid the cost of litigation.