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No Charges For CHP Officer Who Repeatedly Punched Woman On Freeway On-Ramp
There will be no charges filed against former California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Andrew, who was caught on video repeatedly punching Marlene Pinnock, a homeless woman with a history of mental illness who was wandering along the 10 Freeway.
The L.A. County District Attorney's Office made the announcement today that Andrew would not be charged, according to a release from the office.
On July 1, 2014, Andrew was caught on video taken by a bystander, repeatedly punching 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock on the on-ramp of the 10 Freeway at La Brea Avenue after bystanders reported a woman walking barefoot along the freeway.
A 30-page Charge Evaluation Worksheet dated Dec. 3 stated that, "Based upon the fact presented, there was a lawful necessary for Andrew to use force to prevent Pinnock from entering the lanes of traffic and there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force he used was unreasonable or excessive." The document can be read in its entirety here.
Pinnock, who said she had been homeless for the last five years and has a history of mental illness, said she was just walking around at the the time of her arrest, looking for a place to sleep. She told KTLA that she was scared for her life because "he just wouldn't stop beating me. I didn't know when he was going to stop."
Pinnock's attorney, Caree Harper, told The Times last July that there was "no justification for the way that he savagely beat her," and that the video would speak for itself as evidence. "The focal point of what she did of the freeway is simple; she got beat. She got savagely beat by someone who seemed like he was trying out for mixed martial arts, and it's absolutely unacceptable," she said.
The release from LADA states that while the 42-second video "may have been unsettling to watch," it did not show the events leading up to Pinnock's arrest and "represents just one piece of evidence collected and reviewed in the LADA's extensive and independent investigation."
The district attorney's office said that they used medical records, witness accounts, recordings of 9-1-1 calls and footage from patrol car dash cameras in their investigation. Three witnesses said they saw Pinnock hit Andrew, and four witnesses said they thought Andrew was trying to save Pinnock from being hurt or killed by traffic. One witness said it appeared to her as though Pinnock was trying to kill herself by walking into traffic. An independent use of force expert hired by the district attorney's office said Andrew acted within CHP policy and training.
"When looking at all of the evidence, and especially the medical reports and eyewitness accounts, it becomes exceedingly clear that the officer, who was alone and struggling with Ms. Pinnock precariously close to evening freeway traffic, acted within the law," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. "In our analysis, his use of force was legal and necessary to protect not only his own life but also that of Ms. Pinnock."
Lacey also said that Andrew had an obligation to protect drivers as well as Pinnock and himself. According to the LADA's release, medical records showed that Pinnock sustained no facial or head injuries, and that these records in combination with the video suggested that Andrew mostly struck Pinnock in the shoulder or upper body. Harper had previously contradicted CHP's claims that Pinnock was uninjured, saying that her client suffered multiple injuries to her body, face, arms and shoulders, including a lump on her shoulder that was "so large that it is the size of a small plum."
The document states that Andrew was attempting to grab Pinnock's arms and pull her away from the road, but that Pinnock resisted. Both fell to the ground. Andrew wrote in his report that he used a leg sweep to bring Pinnock to the ground, though she may have also stumbled. The report then states that Pinnock swung her arm at Andrew, hitting him in the face, and tried to knee him in the groin. Andrew then got on top of Pinnock, straddling her, and tried to control her hands. Pinnock continued tor struggle. According to the document:
In an attempt to control the situation, Andrew delivered or attempted to deliver ten strikes with his right hand to Pinnock's arms, shoulders and head area. During this time, Pinnock's leg was bent at the knee and positioned in Andrew's groin area. All strikes occurred in fewer than ten seconds, appear to have been with a closed fist, and were either hammer strikes or punches. At some point during these ten seconds, Pinnock grabbed Andrew's lapel microphone, causing it to dislodge from his uniform and become temporarily disabled.
West Covina Police Department Officer Jose Pedraza then approached, dressed in plainclothes, and helped Andrew handcuff Pinnock. Two other officers—Officers Ibarra and Moreno—arrived and helped Andrew put Pinnock in his patrol car as Pinnock "screamed incoherently," something that the document states was recorded via the two officers' Mobile Video/Audio Recording Systems (MVARS). This also recorded part of a conversation the officers had, during which Pedraza commented that Pinnock was strong, and Andrew replied, "Oh, dude, I'm glad you showed up. I was going to Tase her… she grabbed my vest."
Lacey said that it is her hope "that Ms. Pinnock is finally able to get the long-term care she needs."
Update, 4:00 p.m.: Pinnock's lawyer, Career Harper, told City News Service she was disgusted by D.A. Jackie Lacey's decision not to prosecute Andrew.
"This is a cowardly, disgusting decision by a district attorney who has shown no regard for a community of people who have been beaten by bad officers. She should be removed ASAP, and an independent counsel should be appointed to investigate whenever there is a police beating of a citizen.''
Harper said that Pinnock was in "good spirits" when she saw her earlier this week, and that she has had "some mental health challenge she's been working through."