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San Bernardino County pays man beaten in horse chase $650K

By Danielle Haynes

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., April 21 (UPI) -- Officials in San Bernadino County, Calif., agreed to pay a $650,000 settlement to a man who was beaten by sheriff's deputies after a horseback pursuit in the desert earlier this month.

The county's board of supervisors unanimously voted to pay the money to Francis Jared Pusok to settle all potential claims he may have from the incident.

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"The sole purpose of this agreement for both parties is to avoid the costs involved in litigation," Board of Supervisors Chairman James Ramos said. "The agreement is a fair outcome for everyone involved, including the taxpayers."

The county said the settlement doesn't acknowledge wrongdoing.

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Ten sheriff's deputies were placed on administrative leave after a KNBC-TV helicopter captured footage of the incident in which Pusok was repeatedly kicked and punched even after he put his hands behind his back. The status of those deputies is unclear.

Sheriff John McMahon ordered internal and criminal investigations into the incident.

"It is disturbing, and it appears on its face that there are violations of policy, but that will ultimately be determined in the investigation and to what degree," McMahon told the Los Angeles Times. "We'll figure out exactly what happened and proceed from there whether there was criminal wrongdoing on the part of our deputies."

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The incident unfolded April 9 when deputies attempted to serve Pusok with a search warrant in an identity-theft investigation. Pusok led deputies on a three-hour car chase that ended with Pusok dumping the car and stealing a horse to escape, investigators said.

When Pusok took off into rough terrain near the San Bernardino National Forest, a sheriff's office helicopter was used to lower deputies into the area. Pusok fell from the horse as deputies closed in, and a Taser was used on him.

The sheriff's office said the Taser was ineffective because he was wearing loose clothing. The video footage, captured by the news helicopter flying above the scene, shows Pusok on the ground with his hands behind his back as deputies land blows, including a kick to the groin.

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Investigators said Pusok was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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