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3 Deputies Charged With Assault For Violent Horse-Thief Arrest

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Three San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies have been charged with assault after the violent arrest of a man who led them on a chase, both by car and on horseback, through the High Desert.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies Michael Phelps, Nick Downey and Charles Foster have all been charged with assault under the color of authority, according to the Press Enterprise. If convicted, they could face between 16 months to three years in jail.

The charges stem from the violent arrest of Francis Jared Pusok in Apple Valley. On April 9, Pusok led police on a wild pursuit first in a car and then via a stolen horse after officers attempted to serve him with a search warrant while investigating an identity theft case. Much of the arrest was caught on video thanks to an NBC 4 news chopper.

Seven other officers were investigated, but were not charged. They, along with Phelps, Downey and Foster, have been on paid administrative leave. Sheriff John McMahon said that the officers were under a high amount of stress at the time of the arrest, but that their emotional state didn't excuse what they did.

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Pusok was no stranger to law enforcement, with a string of convictions dating back 10 years, including animal cruelty and attempted robbery, according to the San Bernardino Sun. Pusok said he was afraid of the police, saying that some of his previous encounters with law enforcement had been less than pleasant. He cited a 2013 incident in which he shot a puppy, claiming the puppy had been mortally wounded by a bigger dog and he was putting it out of its misery. He said responding officers kicked in his back door and "hog-tied me and beat me with fist, elbows and knees." He was ultimately charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty and resisting a peace officer.

So, on April 9, Pusok elected to flee officers in a car. At one point during the chase, Pusok stole a horse and continued the chase on horseback, injuring the animal in the process.

Much of the chase was recorded by an NBC 4 news chopper, and the video showed the chase come to an end when Pusok fell off the horse. Though he appeared to surrender, the three deputies begin kicking and punching him while he was down on the ground. Soon, other deputies arrived and the beating continued. Foster can be seen kicking Pusok after he'd been cuffed, and Phelps can be seen kicking Pusok in the groin.

As for Pusok, he has been charged with evading police, resisting arrest, vandalism, being under the influence, grand theft of livestock, cruelty to an animal and possession of ammo by a convicted felon. He and his girlfriend, Jolene Rhonda Ruth Binder, were also charged with receiving stolen property. Pusok's next court date is September 24. Since then, he has settled with San Bernardino County to the tune of $650,000.

The graphic video of the incident is below:

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