First things first. I’m not here to defend the actions of the white suspect who led the police on a high-speed chase that ended when the horse bucked him off in the middle of the desert. The guy’s got a criminal record that included attempted robbery, among other things that were not nearly as glamorous such as “resisting arrest” and “disturbing the peace.” He’s not exactly an innocent victim in all this.
It started when police were serving a search warrant in an identity theft investigation. That’s when the suspect, identified as Francis Jared Pusok, bolted:
The suspect took off in a vehicle and deputies initiated a pursuit through unincorporated Apple Valley, the town of Apple Valley and unincorporated Hesperia. The area is more than 80 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Pusok allegedly abandoned the vehicle 40 miles away from Hesperia in a place called Bowen Ranch where he took off running.
During a search on foot, with off-road vehicles and by helicopter, deputies learned the suspect had stolen a horse and rode it on dirt trails through rugged, steep terrain, causing numerous injuries to the horse.
A sheriff’s helicopter inserted a team of deputies to take the suspect into custody. As deputies made contact with Pusok, the horse threw him off.
That’s also when Pusok clearly surrendered. He was face down in the dirt with his hands begging to be handcuffed behind his back. Instead of issuing a collective sigh and proceeding with the arrest and murmuring something like, “Just another day on the police force,” they beat him mercilessly and strike him some 37 times. Mind you, at this point, he wasn’t resisting. Yes, he ran, but he got chased down and was totally subdued. He surrendered. They won; he lost. But they couldn’t resist beating the tar out of him, just because they could.
This is similar to the North Charleston cop case in that they both involved suspects fleeing, and the cop(s)’ use of force was totally uncalled for. I’m glad the cops in California didn’t shoot the guy to death as Slager did to Scott in South Carolina. But people have argued that since the suspect had prior convictions, and since he fled the scene, he got what he had coming to him.
I was listening to Sean Hannity the other day, and he had a guest on who said pretty much the same thing regarding the South Carolina case; that if Scott had complied every step of the way, he’d still be alive today. I think that’s true, but it’s missing the point. You could say the same thing if someone stole a piece of gum from the grocery store, and a cop reacted and shot the shoplifter and killed him. You could just as easily say, “Well, if he hadn’t stolen that piece of gum, he’d still be alive today.” That’s true, but stealing a piece of gum doesn’t justify immediate execution by a cop.
I usually don’t agree with people like Hannity on the subject of cops. But to my amazement, I did this time. He argued that Scott’s record and the fact that he resisted and ran doesn’t justify shooting him in the back and killing him. We’re not trying to defend Scott. The focus is on the cop’s behavior and lack of self-control.
I think it’s the same with this case in California. The fact that Pusok’s got a record – not a terrible one, but one nonetheless – and the fact that he ran doesn’t justify the cops’ actions. Pusok clearly surrendered with his hands behind his back. That was their cue to arrest him and take him to jail.