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‘Beating grandmothers in the street’

By Starla Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Jul 14, 2014 - 11:45:48 PM

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Family wants officer to go to jail, says lawyer for loved ones of victim

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Los Angeles gets spotlight in videotaped highway police beating of Black woman

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Atty. Caree Harper
Caree Harper, the lawyer representing the family of Marlene Pinnock, the 51-year-old Black woman whose brutal beating by a California Highway Patrol officer was caught on video, said her family wants one thing: Justice.

They want the officer jailed and criminal charges filed, she told The Final Call in an exclusive telephone interview. 

According to David Diaz who recorded the July 1 incident on his phone, Ms. Pinnock was walking off the Santa Monica freeway and only turned around after the officer shouted at her. The officer grabbed the woman, forced her to the ground and began pummeling her on the head and upper body repeatedly. 

“The family wants the officer to go to jail, period. They do not want a compromise,” said Atty. Harper.

Marlene Pinnock
Marlene Pinnock in undated photo provided courtesy of Attorney Caree Harper
Ms. Pinnock was detained and is still in a local psychiatric hospital on an involuntary hold. The officer, whose name had still not been released at presstime, is on administrative duty.

A hearing for Ms. Pinnock has not yet been scheduled. Atty. Harper has visited her several times since the incident and described in graphic detail what she observed.

“When the family and I viewed her, all of us observed lumps on her head to her face and even the son-in-law observed her eyes being blackened,” she said.

“The shoulder lumps were the most egregious because it was like a small plum and it was moveable. It’s almost like a Ping-Pong ball inserted in someone’s shoulder under the skin.” 

Ms. Pinnock is in pain and very sore. Despite multiple blows to the head, she was not given a CAT scan until July 7 after a television appeal, which Atty. Harper called an “atrocity.”

A civil lawsuit against the department by the family is pending and will be filed once the necessary information and facts are gathered, she said.

“If someone is involved in an accident or has head injuries, you get a CAT scan immediately. You don’t have to wait for an attorney to go on TV to say you should have a CAT scan. I don’t have an M.D. behind my name but I know an injury when I see it!” said the Los Angeles-based lawyer.

Atty. Harper said some of the activities of the hospital were also suspect and from the time of her detainment there were about 20 hours when Ms. Pinnock’s location would not be confirmed. The beating victim was transferred between facilities under various names, she added. 

Scrutiny must remain on the actions of the patrolman and CHP and blame should not be shifted to the victim or others, which is a common tactic, said the social justice attorney. CHP Asst. Chief Chris O’Quinn is on record stating no independent investigation is necessary and the department will conduct its own.

When asked if Ms. Pinnock has talked about what happened Atty. Harper did not say but did say the victim was in pain, hurt and disappointed in a system that has let her down.    

“Know that they are going to likely try and say that she’s the aggressor because that’s a common tactic, is to put the victim on trial,” predicted Atty. Harper. Do not be surprised if “certain things” are released in the media in the future in an effort to make Ms. Pinnock look bad, she added. “They want to attack the mouthpiece or the victim.”

Attorney Caree Harper, far left, Robert Nobles who is husband to Maisha Allums, daughter of Marlene Pinnock who was seen on the videotape being repeatedly punched, take questions from the media outside the CHP offices in Culver City, Calif., July 8. An earlier video provided by motorist David Diaz, shows California Highway Patrol officer straddling a woman while punching her in the head on the shoulder of a Los Angeles freeway. The woman, identified as Marlene Pinnock, had been walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown Los Angeles, endangering herself and people in traffic, and the officer was trying to restrain her, according to a CHP assistant chief. The officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation.
“From what happened from blow one to blow 15 is an unjustifiable beating. It doesn’t matter what occurred before. As an officer your duty is to use a mild force, reasonably necessary to detain or arrest someone. That extra blow out of frustration is unauthorized and it is illegal.”

Atty. Harper supports an independent investigation which could include the U.S. Justice Department. She is skeptical of the claim CHP can be trusted to “police themselves.” They don’t know how to do it, she said.

“How are you going to be the one to cut off your own arm? They’re not going to throw their own officer under the bus. I can almost write their script. They’re going to say the officer issued verbal commands, she failed to abide by verbal commands and she was in violation of a misdemeanor direction of an officer  or whatever the catchall phrase they use for certain penal code sections that’s common here in California.”

If no charges are filed against the officer on the local level, Atty. Harper said there will be a push to prosecute on the federal level.

“We want the Department of Justice. This is a federal civil rights violation and should be prosecuted criminally at the federal level because if we keep singing the same song over and over again and begging local authorities to police themselves, it doesn’t happen,” she explained. 

Atty. Harper also suggests an independent panel comprised of ordinary citizens to review police actions and behaviors. “Let’s get an independent panel with teeth that can bite the butt of those who step out of bounds and kick the butt of people who should not be abused in the street.”

A strong grassroots effort from the community in pushing for justice for Ms. Pinnock is also needed, added Atty. Harper, a former police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Through all of this, Atty. Harper wants people to know Marlene Pinnock has family and people who care about her. 

“This is someone who was raised in L.A. She had a background in accounting and bookkeeping. She has two grown children who are leading successful lives and she is loved. She is a person and she is loved.”

Stories like what happened to Ms. Pinnock tend to die out as public and media interest fades and as other stories become front page news. People can email, write and call CHP office to make their voices heard regarding this case, said Atty. Harper. 

“You don’t have to be related to call and writing a letter and say that was an atrocity and I want to know what you’re doing about it. The CHP is not going to move any faster than we make them move,” said Atty. Harper.

“We’re getting our butts bitten off by police. We want the police to get their butt bit for beating grandmothers in the street. I’m sick of it; they should be sick of it; we all should be sick of it.”

(See The Final Call, Vol. 33 Issue 40 for previous coverage of this story.)