The L.A. County District Attorney's Office announced today that former California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Andrew, who was caught on video last year pummeling a mentally ill homeless woman, won't be prosecuted.
Andrew was responding to a number of 911 calls stating that the woman, Marlene Pinnock, was walking on the 10 freeway. When he tried to keep her from stepping back into traffic, she resisted, and he began punching her — at least 10 times, according to an investigation.
“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,” said District Attorney Jackie Lacey in a press release. “In our analysis, his use of force was legal and necessary to protect not only his own life but also that of Ms. Pinnock.”
Pinnock sued the California Highway Patrol, and in September of last year, the agency settled with Pinnock for $1.5 million. Andrew resigned as part of that settlement.
The incident occurred on July 1, 2014. The first 911 call came at approximately 7:11 p.m., and the person on the line said, “There's a woman walking on the freeway going into the freeway just walking barefooted.” At least eight other calls were made to 911, describing the woman — Pinnock — as a black female wearing a pink dress, a white purse and no shoes.
Officer Andrew found Pinnock at about 7:44 p.m. on the right shoulder of the eastbound 10 freeway. According to a police report he would later file, Andrew told Pinnock that it wasn't safe for her to be on the freeway. She called Andrew a “white devil” and said that she had the right to walk home. She turned away and walked toward the freeway exit. Andrew followed. Then she turned back.
After a few minutes of this, Andrew, according to the District Attorney Office's report, “grabbed Pinnock's right arm to prevent her from walking into the traffic lane. A struggle ensued. Pinnock turned to face Andrew and she extended her left arm toward Andrew, possibly grabbing or striking him at that time.”
Pinnock then either fell to the ground or was forced to the ground by Andrew. According to the report: “Once on the ground, Pinnock swung her left arm in a back-handed motion, hitting Andrew in the face, and pulled her left knee, and possibly both knees, into Andrew's groin area.”
That's when Andrew began hitting her, 10 times with his closed fist, in the space of less than 10 seconds. They were all caught on camera by an astonished driver passing by. The video, which follows, is a bit disturbing:
Nearly all the blows, according to the report, struck Pinnock's shoulder or chest. An independent use of force expert found that “the absence of injury to Ms. Pinnock's head and face … indicates that if any of the strikes hit her head, they were glancing, ineffective blows.”
“He grabbed me, he threw me down, he started beating me, he beat me. I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death,” Pinnock told the Associated Press a month after the incident.
“Fortunately, neither the officer nor Ms. Pinnock were seriously injured,” Lacey said. “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, however, claimed she was injured from the incident and that she suffered “a sharp pain through her temple, an injury to her nose, two black eyes, a bloody nose, lumps in both of her arms and scarring from gravel digging in her back.” Medical records did not support Pinnock's claims.
Between 2004 and 2012, there were five documented instances of police responding to Pinnock acting violently. In 2012, for example, she assaulted an Albertson's employee.
Pinnock's civil rights lawsuit was settled less than three months after the beating occurred. Her attorney, Career Harper, received $600,000 of the $1.5 million settlement. Judge Otis Wright II, who presided over the case, called the fee “unconscionable,” and later told the L.A. Times, “Ms. Pinnock, in my opinion, has been exploited.”