The California Highway Patrol officer who was videotaped punching a woman on the 10 Freeway has been stripped of his duties and could face "potentially serious charges," the agency announced Wednesday.
CHP officials said in a statement that they had forwarded to prosecutors the results of a criminal investigation into the "violent incident" between Officer Daniel Andrew and the woman, identified by her attorney as 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock. It was the first time the CHP has named the officer involved in the July 1 incident.
A CHP spokeswoman declined to say what charges Andrew could face, saying the decision to file charges was up to prosecutors. Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, confirmed that the office had received information on the case and said it was under review.
The incident attracted widespread attention after a video of the encounter — shot by a passing motorist — was posted to YouTube and aired on several television news stations. Local civil rights activists called on the CHP to take the matter seriously and conduct a thorough investigation into the officer's actions. Others demanded that criminal charges be filed against the officer.
The video shows a uniformed CHP officer pinning the woman to the ground and repeatedly punching her, landing at least nine blows.
The CHP has said the officer was trying to keep the woman from walking into rush-hour traffic and hurting herself or others. A CHP incident summary said that when the officer arrived, she ignored his commands and instead walked into the freeway's lanes. She then became "physically combative," the report said, and "a physical altercation occurred."
But Pinnock told The Times on Wednesday that she did nothing to provoke the officer. Pinnock said she was walking to a place to sleep that night when the officer came up behind her. As Pinnock screamed, she said, he "pulled me back and threw me on the ground."
The officer "just started punching me and socking me and beating me," Pinnock said. "Blow after blow and blow after blow. He just wouldn't stop."
"I couldn't believe this was happening to me," she said. "I did nothing to provoke him to do this to me. I gave him no reason."
Pinnock's attorney, Caree Harper, acknowledged her client has had "emotional and mental challenges" but declined to say whether Pinnock had ever been prescribed medication for those issues or formally diagnosed with mental health problems. Harper previously said her client was not under the influence of narcotics or other substances at the time of the confrontation with Andrew.
Pinnock was hospitalized after the incident and placed on a mental health hold. She said Wednesday that she was continuing to recover from injuries suffered as a result of the officer's punches. She displayed a lump on her upper right arm and scars from scratches on her back.
Harper has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Pinnock against Andrew and CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow, alleging Andrew used excessive force. An attorney representing Andrew in the lawsuit declined to comment on the criminal investigation.
The CHP said a separate internal investigation into the incident was ongoing and that the agency would "continue to cooperate" with the district attorney's office in the criminal inquiry.
"It is our desire to be as transparent as possible while adhering to the laws and due process that govern any investigation," the agency said in a statement. "We value the public's trust and appreciate the community's patience as we complete this internal process."
Andrew's peace officer duties were "revoked effective immediately," the CHP added. Sgt. Melissa Hammond said Andrew was now on paid administrative leave and had returned his state-issued property — including his badge and gun — to the agency.
Andrew joined the CHP as a cadet in April 2012 and was promoted to an officer in the central Los Angeles area six months later, Hammond said. She declined to comment on whether Andrew had a disciplinary record, citing state confidentiality laws for peace officers.
Doug Villars, president of the union that represents CHP officers, said he had been in touch with Andrew and the commissioner. Villars said he was not privy to details of the case but said he had urged the agency to conduct a thorough probe.
"All we can hope for is a fair, factual and impartial investigation," he said.
Pinnock's attorney said Wednesday that she was glad to see the case forwarded to prosecutors, but said more needed to be done. Harper said she wanted to see charges filed — felony battery at the minimum — and the officer arrested.
"This should have been done in July. Better late than never," she said. "It is my opinion that he should have a booking number tomorrow."
"I just want to see justice done and a good recovery for me," she said. "And him go to jail for what he has done."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times