The sheriff of San Bernardino County, California, said on Friday he has suspended 10 deputies involved in the videotaped beating of a suspect who appeared to have surrendered and was lying on the ground after making a failed getaway attempt on horseback.
Sheriff John McMahon said at a news conference he was "disturbed and troubled" by what he saw in the video, which was shot by a KNBC-TV news helicopter as the confrontation unfolded on Thursday near the desert town of Apple Valley, east of Los Angeles.
"It appears to be excessive to me based on what I saw in the video," he said of the force used in restraining the suspect, Francis Pusok, 30, after the man had already been shot by a Taser stun gun and was splayed face down in the dirt.
The aerial footage surfaced on Thursday amid intense media coverage surrounding another video clip from South Carolina showing a policeman there fatally shooting a man running away from the officer after being stopped for a broken tail light.
Ten officers involved in the beating of Pusok have been placed on paid administrative leave pending a special investigation of the incident, the sheriff said.
McMahon said Pusok was treated at a local hospital for abrasions and bruises, then jailed on several criminal charges, including felony evasion and possession of stolen property.
Pusok initially fled in a car when confronted by officers who showed up at a residence to serve a search warrant as part of an identity-theft investigation, McMahon told reporters.
He eventually ditched the car, ran a short distance on foot and stole a horse before deputies swarming the area in off-road vehicles and helicopters closed in on him in the rugged, hilly desert outside town.
The video shows Pusok galloping on horseback until he falls from the saddle, briefly scrambles to his feet, then throws himself to the ground, spread eagle on his stomach with his arms out in front of him as two deputies run up with Tasers drawn.
The two deputies are seen immediately pouncing on the suspect, taking turns repeatedly punching and stomping on him while several more officers join in the fray, delivering repeated blows and kicks in a scuffle that goes on for at least two minutes.
McMahon said the Taser apparently was ineffective against Pusok because of his loose clothing.
Two deputies were treated for minor injuries and released, the sheriff said.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner from San Francisco; Editing by Sandra Maler)