APPLE VALLEY (CBSLA.com) — “Hey … hey! That’s my horse. Leave my horse alone!”
Those were the frantic words after Francis Pusok rode off on a man’s horse. Minutes later, he would take a beating from sheriff’s deputies captured on camera.
Witness Tom Ridge was standing with the owner of the horse as Pusok tried to escape police in a remote area of Apple Valley.
“It was like it was his horse. He just walks over, slowly unties, not panicked. Not in a hurry, nonchalant, turns around and rides off,” said Ridge. “The helicopter was just directly above at the time, sand blowing everywhere; it was like a movie scene or something.
“It was pretty crazy.”
Ridge says Pusok never said a word and never even made eye contact with anyone.
“[He rode] across the creek, up the embankment 20 feet,” he said. “Fell off the horse, got back on, went down the trail, down another trail toward Lake Arrowhead.
The owner tried to catch him.
“He ran up over the mountain, probably 4 miles, but he got his horse,” said Ridge.
Investigators say the chase started as they served a search warrant at a home. As they tried to make contact with Pusok, who was there at the time, he took off.
All told, the chase lasted more than two hours. After his arrest, CBS2/KCAL9 was the first to speak with Pusok while he was in jail.
Pusok said then he was worried about his safety. After his release, he was asked why he didn’t surrender from the beginning.
“They tried ramming me – and sent me through a fence – and I’ve had previous encounters where they have beaten me, so I was trying to avoid that,” he said.
But Ridge says he isn’t buying that explanation.
“On that day, he had every ample opportunity to stop and surrender, you know,” said Ridge. “It was his choice to steal the horse, run from the police, run up the hill.”
Pusok has a history of run-ins with the law: he’s been convicted of animal cruelty, obstructing and resisting arrest. And a female deputy reported he threatened to kill her.
The owner of the horse has opted not to speak with reporters, but Ridge says he is not going to press charges against Pusok in the theft of the horse.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon announced last week 10 deputies in the videotaped beating were put on leave pending an investigation.