LOS ANGELES — The lawyer for a bipolar woman who was punched by a former highway patrol officer alongside a busy freeway is urging federal prosecutors to criminally charge the ex-lawman for violating her civil rights, according to a letter obtained Dec. 21 by City News Service.
The letter to the U.S. Department of Justice comes less than a month after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Daniel Andrew in connection with the July 2014 encounter with Marlene Pinnock alongside the Santa Monica (10) Freeway.
Andrew resigned from the department when the California Highway Patrol reached a $1.5 million legal settlement with Pinnock.
Attorney Caree Harper wrote in her Dec. 16 letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that Andrew should be held responsible “for flagrantly violating Ms. Pinnock’s constitutional right to be free from excessive force.”
A call for comment to the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., was not returned Dec. 21.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a Dec. 3 statement that Andrew acted within the law by resorting to force to stop Pinnock from entering traffic.
Lacey said that “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.”
She added, “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’s decision was widely criticized by local civic rights activists, with some of them calling for Lacey’s resignation.
In her letter to the Department of Justice, Harper contends that Andrew used Pinnock as a “punching bag” in what she called an unprovoked attack, which was captured on cell phone video by an observer.
“Even an animal would have been corralled and led off the street — not beaten into the cement,” Harper wrote.
County prosecutors noted that the video, which shows Andrew sitting on top of Pinnock and repeatedly punching the woman in the head, captures only 42 seconds of a nine-minute encounter. They also noted the video was only one piece of evidence reviewed in the investigation.
Lacey said the totality of the evidence made it “exceedingly clear” that Andrew “acted within the law.”
“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 said.
Pinnock, who was 51 at the time of the confrontation, sued the CHP in Los Angeles federal court, and reached a settlement in September 2014, less than 90 days after the incident. Harper said Pinnock suffers from bipolar disorder and didn’t take her medication for months before the run-in with Andrew, who had been on the job for two years.
At the time the settlement was announced, CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said a large portion of the funds would be placed into a special-needs trust for Pinnock “to provide a mechanism for her long-term care.”
Before the beating video was made public, the CHP said Pinnock was walking barefoot along the freeway shoulder and occasionally in traffic lanes and when she did not respond to orders to stop, Andrew got out of his patrol vehicle and confronted her, at which time she became combative.
Pinnock was taken into custody earlier this year for walking on the freeway again.