Activists renew call for independent probe of CHP punching video

Activists renew call for independent probe of CHP punching video
Maisha Allums, daughter of Marlene Pinnock, wipes away a tear at a news conference Thursday as attorney Caree Harper, right, discusses her mother's altercation with a CHP officer. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Community leaders and attorneys renewed their calls for an independent investigation into the California Highway Patrol officer who was recorded on video punching a woman along the 10 Freeway.

Those gathered at a news conference Thursday had harsh words for the officer who punched Marlene Pinnock, a 51-year-old grandmother who remains hospitalized for a mental health evaluation. Some have called for criminal charges to be brought against the officer, who has not been named by the CHP.


"You don't beat a person into submission on the grounds that you are trying to protect," said John Burris, one of the attorneys representing Pinnock. "I rarely, if ever, trust police officers to do their own investigation."

The Thursday news conference was the latest call for a thorough investigation into the July 1 incident, which sparked outrage and questions after the video was posted on YouTube.

Many at the news conference said it wasn't enough to have the CHP or state attorney general look into the matter -- they wanted an outside agency to conduct an investigation.

"It's tantamount to having the fox guard the chicken coop," said Danny J. Bakewell, chairman of the Brotherhood Crusade. "We know better. We've been here before."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has called for a thorough investigation into the incident. In a statement, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) urged the same, saying the actions were enough to "demand" the officer's dismissal. A rally was scheduled for Saturday in South L.A.'s Leimert Park.

"We'll make sure no stone is left unturned in finding justice for this woman," Bakewell said.

The video, which has been repeatedly aired on television, shows a woman walking along the freeway near the La Brea Avenue exit when a male CHP officer catches up with her.

A CHP incident summary said the woman ignored the officer's commands and instead walked "into the traffic lanes." She then became "physically combative," the report said, and "a physical altercation ensued."

The video shows the officer pinning the woman to the ground and punching her at least nine times.

The CHP has said the officer was trying to keep the woman from hurting herself or others by walking into rush-hour traffic.

Pinnock was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. Her attorneys have not commented on why she was on the freeway that evening or provided more information about her mental health, though others at the Thursday news conference acknowledged she was mentally "impaired."

"Why was she on the freeway?" Pinnock's attorney, Caree Harper, said Thursday. "Well, why was she punched so many times?"

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow, after meeting with prominent L.A. civil rights activists Tuesday, told reporters that he was "deeply concerned" by the video. The incident, he said, had "wounded" his agency.

Farrow pledged a thorough investigation, saying the CHP had asked Los Angeles police, L.A. County prosecutors and the U.S. attorney's office for "support and assistance." The inquiry would likely take weeks to complete, he said.


"We have a significant issue on our hands that we have to deal with," Farrow said. "And we are going to deal with that."

Farrow declined to speculate on what actions might have warranted the officer's response. He said investigators would look at a range of evidence, including 911 calls, the video and witness statements.

"You all saw what I saw," he said. "The question of why and how is the crux of the investigation."

Farrow said all CHP employees recently underwent new mandatory training regarding their interactions with people who may have mental health issues. The training, which he described as "very, very contemporary and very innovative," was concluded June 30.

The officer involved would have had the training, Farrow said.

Farrow said the officer was now on an out-of-field "administrative assignment," but declined to comment further about his history, saying only that he was a "relatively young" member of the department.

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