The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing a request for an independent investigation into the California Highway Patrol officer who was recorded on video punching a woman along the 10 Freeway, an FBI spokeswoman said.
Federal officials are considering opening their own inquiry into the incident, according to law enforcement sources who were familiar with the case but not authorized to speak publicly.
Local civil rights activists sent a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. this week, asking for a formal, independent investigation into the officer who was seen punching 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock at least nine times near the freeway's La Brea Avenue exit. A passing motorist recorded the July 1 incident on video and posted the footage on YouTube.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed the Justice Department was aware of the letter and video.
The CHP launched its own investigation after the video surfaced. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow told reporters that his office had also contacted the local U.S. attorney's office, the Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. County district attorney's office.
Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said prosecutors were assisting the CHP in its investigation.
Pinnock has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer and Farrow, alleging the officer used excessive force. On Wednesday her attorney reiterated frustration with what she described as a slow-moving investigation, and again called for criminal charges against the officer.
“None of our agencies have come out and said a word about prosecuting this man criminally,” attorney Caree Harper told reporters. “It is not acceptable for the district attorney to say, ‘We are waiting on the CHP to do their internal investigation before we have our findings.’
"We do not want a cut-and-paste investigation that is merely copying the words of the CHP and saying, ‘Oh, that was a justifiable beating.’ ”
The CHP has said the officer was trying to keep Pinnock 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 ensued.”
In the lawsuit, Pinnock alleges the officer "was bamming me in my temples with all the strength he had." The officer was identified in the lawsuit filed by Harper as Daniel Andrew.
A CHP officer in documents noted Pinnock was “talking to herself” and tried to walk into traffic on the freeway, according to a report obtained by the Los Angeles Times. He made the comments in an application he submitted in support of putting the woman on a 72-hour hold for further mental evaluation. The officer wrote that he was called to the eastbound lanes of the 10 Freeway after a report of a pedestrian walking on the roadway near the La Brea exit.
“The subject began telling me ‘I want to walk home’ and called me ‘the devil,’ ” he wrote. “The subject then tried to walk into traffic lanes.”
Pinnock was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation and was contiuning to receive treatment, Harper said Wednesday. Her attorneys have declined to say why she was on the freeway that evening or provide more information about her mental health, but Harper said there was no indication she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.
“We understand there is a curiosity about her mental state as to how she arrived on the freeway,” she said. “But our curiosity now is about how Officer Andrew arrived to beat her so many times.”
The officer involved has been removed from the field and assigned to an administrative job, the CHP said. The CHP has not identified the officer involved nor confirmed if it was the person identified by Pinnock's attorneys, citing concerns about the officer’s safety.
The officer who wrote the report in support of Pinnock's mental evaluation identified himself only as "D. Andrew." CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader confirmed tjat a Daniel Andrew was employed by the agency, but would not say if that individual was involved in the matter.