The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined Thursday to file charges against a former California Highway Patrol officer caught on camera beating a woman walking alongside the Santa Monica (10) Freeway in July 2014.
Officer Daniel Andrew resigned from the department when the CHP reached a $1.5 million settlement with the woman, Marlene Pinnock.
A portion of the July 1, 2014, confrontation between Andrew and Pinnock was recorded with a cell phone camera by music producer David Diaz, who was driving along the freeway near La Brea Avenue and witnessed the altercation.
According to a District Attorney’s Office charge-evaluation worksheet, prosecutors decided there is “insufficient evidence” to prove that Andrew used unreasonable force.
“Based upon the facts presented, there was a lawful necessity for Andrew to use force to prevent Pinnock from entering the lanes of traffic and there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force he used was unreasonable or excessive,” according to the worksheet.
Pinnock’s attorney, Caree Harper, said she was “disgusted” by District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s decision.
“This is a cowardly, disgusting decision by a district attorney who has shown no regard for a community of people who have been beaten by bad officers,” Harper told City News Service. “She should be removed ASAP, and an independent counsel should be appointed to investigate whenever there is a police beating of a citizen.”
Prosecutors noted that the videotape, 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.
She said Andrew was trying to protect not only himself and Pinnock, but motorists on the freeway.
“Under these circumstances, his use of force was proportionate with the threat he encountered and the training he received from CHP,” Lacey said. “Fortunately, neither the officer nor Ms. Pinnock were seriously injured. As this matter comes to a close, it is my hope that Ms. Pinnock is finally able to get the long-term care she needs.”
Pinnock, who was 51 at the time of the confrontation, sued the CHP in Los Angeles federal court, and reached the $1.5 million settlement in September 2014. 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.
The release of the video led to numerous protests and calls for Andrew to be prosecuted.
In October, Pinnock was taken into custody in the same area where last year’s encounter took place.
The CHP officers who found her took her from the freeway to a safer location and, after further evaluation, she was taken to County-USC Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation and treatment, according to a CHP statement.
“She has some mental challenges she’s been working through,” Harper said Thursday, adding that when she last saw Pinnock on Wednesday, “she was in good spirits.”
—City News Service