The California Highway Patrol officer whose beating of a woman on the side of a freeway prompted outrage will not face criminal charges, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Thursday.
“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 … precariously close to evening freeway traffic, acted within the law,” Lacey said in a press statement.
Lacey’s decision ends a saga that started in July 2014 when a passer-by recorded Officer Daniel Andrew straddling then-51-year-old Marlene Pinnock on the ground and repeatedly striking her.
The pictures of a young white police officer striking a mentally confused African American grandmother went viral and drew comparisons to the 1991 Rodney King beating. A number of civil rights groups and Rep. Maxine Waters accused Andrew of using excessive force.
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The CHP reached a $1.5 million settlement with Pinnock. Andrew resigned, but the question of whether he would be criminally charged remained unsettled.
In October, Pinnock was arrested again after officers saw her wandering on the shoulder of a Los Angeles-area freeway.
“Today’s announcement by the district attorney underscores the depth of various issues our department faces daily,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a statement, “and the complexity of each and every case we deal with.”
A 30-page report on the incident says that after Andrew and Pinnock fell to the ground, the woman hit Andrew in the face by swinging “her left arm in a back handed motion, and pulled her knee, or possibly both knees, into Andrew’s groin area.”
She continued to struggle with the officer, according to the report, and he struck her as she grabbed at him and again drew a knee to his groin.
The report noted that after viewing the 42-second video in slow motion, investigators found “most of the strikes appear to contact Pinnock’s right shoulder or upper body area,” and that medical records support that conclusion.
Several witnesses cited in the report told investigators that they believed Andrew was attempting to keep the woman from being hurt. One witness who was driving past said she “slammed on her brakes to avoid hitting Pinnock.”