The head of the California Highway Patrol said he was “deeply concerned” by the video of an officer repeatedly punching a woman on the side of the 10 Freeway, saying the incident has “wounded” his agency.
Commissioner Joe Farrow’s comments came after a private meeting with prominent Los Angeles civil rights activists, the second meeting between CHP officials and community leaders in as many days.
Farrow pledged a thorough investigation into the July 1 incident, saying his agency had reached out to Los Angeles police, L.A. County prosecutors and the U.S. attorney’s office for “support and assistance.”
“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 cautioned that the investigation would probably take weeks to complete and declined to speculate whether any 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.”
The video, which was posted on YouTube and recently aired on several television news channels, has prompted investigations, questions and outrage.
The video shows the woman -- identified by attorneys as Marlene Pinnock -- walking along the freeway near the La Brea exit when a CHP officer catches up to her. The officer, the agency said, was trying to keep the barefoot woman from walking into traffic and endangering herself and others.
A CHP summary of the incident said the officer tried to stop the woman, but she repeatedly ignored the commands. At one point, the report said, the woman veered “into the traffic lanes.”
“During the conversation the pedestrian then becomes physically combative, at which point the officer is forced to place the pedestrian under arrest in fear of the pedestrian’s and officer’s safety,” the report said. “A physical altercation ensued as the pedestrian continued to resist arrest.”
Pinnock was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, one of her attorneys said. John Burris said it was unclear why his client was on the freeway that evening.
Pinnock was a familiar face in the area, known to some who lived at a homeless encampment near a freeway overpass as kind and friendly. LAPD records show she had been arrested several times in the area.
Pinnock’s family has announced their plans for a lawsuit. CHP officials have said the video captured only a small part of the incident and said in a statement that a “complete and thorough” investigation was underway.
The officer involved, who has not been named, was on an “administrative assignment” that was out of the field, Farrow said. He declined to detail the officer’s history, saying only that he was “relatively young.”
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who was among the community leaders who attended Tuesday’s meeting, commended the CHP for what he described as a positive history in terms of its interactions with the public. But, he said, the July 1 incident was a “black eye.” He thanked Farrow for his time and said he looked forward to moving forward.
“The major concern above everything else: What are you going to do about this?” Hutchinson said. “We don’t want to see it brushed off.”
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