San Bernardino County to pay $650,000 after deputies beat horse pursuit suspect
San Bernardino County approved a $650,000 payout Tuesday to a man who was beaten by sheriff’s deputies after he was thrown off a horse — an incident captured on video by a hovering news helicopter.
Francis Pusok, 30, settled with the county Friday, a little more than a week after the April 9 incident in which deputies kicked and punched Pusok even as he appeared to have surrendered. It was approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
The settlement ends any potential claims Pusok could make against the county or Sheriff’s Department stemming from the beating.
It does not, however, put an end to disciplinary and criminal investigations that were launched by Sheriff John McMahon following the incident, which he said “disturbed and troubled” him. Ten deputies were placed on paid leave and the FBI is conducting a civil rights investigation.
County spokesman David Wert said supervisors agreed to the settlement in order to avoid the costs, time and effort involved in a potential lawsuit.
“Clearly this was something that both sides had an interest in resolving as soon as possible,” he said.
In a written statement, Pusok’s attorneys, Sharon Brunner and James Terrell, said it was the county that initiated settlement negotiations based on the video.
“This settlement is remarkable as there was essentially no investigation nor any indictments,” the attorneys said in the statement. “Rather it is based on a video which depicts a violent and brutal attack by San Bernardino County deputies on a private citizen “
The case “was never about money for Mr. Pusok,” they said. “It has always been and will continue to be about the personal safety of Mr. Pusok and his family free from police harassment and abuse that they have had to endure.”
Pusok led deputies on an hours-long chase that began after they arrived to serve a search warrant at a home in unincorporated Apple Valley. The father of three did not live at the home but fled in a car after deputies arrived.
He eventually abandoned the car and fled on foot, then allegedly stole a horse, which he rode for about four miles until the animal threw him as deputies approached, according to sheriff’s officials.
In the video, Pusok can be seen lying face down on the ground with his hands behind his back while deputies punch and kick him.
In an interview Friday, Pusok said he ran because prior encounters with police and deputies led him to fear law enforcement. McMahon has previously said he believes Pusok fled because he was on probation.
Pusok has faced multiple counts of resisting arrest or being aggressive toward officers in recent years, though many of those charges were eventually dismissed or reduced through plea deals.
As part of the settlement, the county admitted no wrongdoing.
“The sole purpose of this agreement for both parties is to avoid the costs involved in litigation,” board Chairman James Ramos said in a statement. “This agreement is a fair outcome for everyone involved, including taxpayers.”
Following the beating, Ramos called on the sheriff to implement a pilot program to use body cameras in the department.
In their statement, Pusok’s attorneys said they hoped the case, which drew national attention, would serve as a catalyst for reform.
“Change is obviously needed,” they said.
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