Troubles between the police (sheriffs) and the public returned to San Bernardino County this week (April 9, 2015). In a televised pursuit between a fleeing individual and the San Bernardino County Sheriff, several authorities were seen tasing, kicking and striking an individual lying on the ground, face down, with his arms and legs outstretched, clearly evidencing his intention to surrender. Many of these blows were directed in or around the head and neck while he was on his stomach, then later with his hands behind his back. Ultimately the victim of the beating, Mr. Jared Pusok was taken to a local hospital for treatment of his injuries.
A Southern California news helicopter appears to have filmed the entire beating incident as it occurred in Apple Valley, California.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon indicated he commenced an investigation into the incident. It is reported that several deputies reported injuries during their efforts in chasing the fleeing Mr. Pusok.
From a legal standpoint, the question to be answered is whether the deputies engaged in conduct which violates the Constitution and the right against to be free from the use of excessive force by those vested with governmental authority. In order to determine if excessive force was used in this incident, the court will look at the totality of the circumstances and evaluate the conduct of the officers against previous court decisions concerning such circumstances. A deputy may only use such force as is necessary to legally and lawfully secure a suspect. Once a suspect "surrenders" and there is no need for force to subdue the individual, any use of force can be deemed excessive. Force beyond that which is reasonably necessary to subdue an individual may be deemed excessive force and may be actionable in court.
Victims of excessive force need legal counsel who understand the Federal and State laws protecting individuals against these governmental abuses. Even cases which seem to be clear, even outrageous, are often aggressively fought by the law enforcement and government agencies responsible for the actions of their officers and deputies. If a person thinks he or she has an excessive force claim, they need to explore their legal rights, determine the nature and scope of their damages, and seek a skilled attorney to pursue the claim, through trial, if necessary.