LOS ANGELES - The sheriff of San Bernardino County, California, has ordered an investigation sparked by "disturbing" video footage of several deputies repeatedly punching and kicking a suspect who appeared to have surrendered as he lay face down on the ground.
Beating of the suspect, who made a failed getaway attempt on horseback, gained wide attention on television and the Internet after footage of Thursday's confrontation was caught by a KNBC-TV news helicopter near the town of Apple Valley, east of Los Angeles.
The suspect, identified as Francis Pusok, 30, initially fled in a car from officers who showed up at his residence to serve a search warrant as part of an identity-theft investigation, the sheriff's office said in a press statement.
Police pursued Pusok into the rugged, hilly desert outside of town, where he ditched the car and stole a horse, the statement said. The chase continued until deputies closing in on the suspect by off-road vehicle and helicopter finally caught up to him.
The aerial footage shows Pusok galloping on horseback until he falls from the saddle, briefly scrambles to his feet, then throws himself on the ground, spread eagle on his stomach with his arms out in front of him as two deputies run up with Taser stun guns drawn.
The two deputies are seen immediately pouncing on the suspect, taking turns 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.
The sheriff's statement said a Taser was fired at Pusok, but was ineffective because of his loose clothing.
"The video surrounding this arrest is disturbing, and I have ordered an internal investigation to be conducted immediately,"Sheriff John McMahon said in the statement. He added that members of a "specialised investigations detail" would be conducting their own criminal inquiry.
Two deputies ended up being treated for dehydration suffered during the pursuit, and a third was injured when kicked by the horse.
The statement said Pusok was taken to a local hospital with unknown injuries.