News cameras caught a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy throwing haymakers at a suspect on the ground after a high speed chase in Southern California on Thursday.
Deputies had been pursuing the burglary suspect for nearly 40 minutes from Rancho Cucamonga to Pasadena, CW-affiliated station KTLA reported. Near the end of the chase, it appeared that a police cruiser had crashed into a tree.
After the police caught up with the suspect, a news helicopter captured footage of a deputy appearing to punch him several times in the ribs and head. The news station reports that the officer may have thrown as many as 15 punches.
Several deputies appeared to be trying to get the suspect's hands behind his back, and it's unclear how forcefully he was resisting arrest.
By 11:45 a.m., when the scene was over, firefighters could be seen placing the suspect, wearing a neck brace, in an ambulance. Two other people were also arrested in connection with the chase.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department didn't immediately return calls for comment, but a department spokeswoman told KTLA that she couldn't comment on use of force during an active investigation.
At least one use of force expert told the Los Angeles Times that the punches were unjustified.
It's "an example of what happens to officers when they're so angry at the suspect and they lose perspective, and get what we call an adrenaline dump," said Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminology professor who has studied use of force and pursuits. "There is no justification for those blows."
The media has scrutinized the county's sheriff's department for use of force before. In April, the department settled a lawsuit for $650,000 after deputies were captured on camera punching and kicking Francis Pusok, a man who was trying to elude officers on horseback. Police reportedly attacked Pusok after hitting him with a stun gun. The department didn't admit guilt in the settlement.
And in September, a sheriff's deputy shot and killed a wrong-way driver from a helicopter, though that use of force wasn't investigated as a possible crime.
Also on HuffPost: