A cell phone video captured by a passing driver, in which a California Highway Patrol officer is seen straddling a woman on the side of a Los Angeles freeway while punching her repeatedly in the head, has sparked an investigation by the CHP. The video was recorded on Tuesday by motorist David Diaz, who then distributed the clip to media outlets. Community leaders are now calling for a federal investigation into the brutal roadside attack.
During a Friday news conference, the assistant chief of the CHP, Chris O’Quinn, related that a call came in regarding a women who was endangering herself and others by walking on Interstate 10. The responding officer discovered the woman walking along an off-ramp of the freeway. When she spied the officer approaching, she returned to the freeway and began meandering through the lanes of traffic.
In the video, the officer catches up to the woman, who is described as seemingly disoriented and barefoot, on the shoulder of the freeway. After she ignores his orders to stop, he immediately pins her to the ground, and begins raining punches on her head and face as the woman attempts to sit up and protect herself from the blows. A plain-clothed off-duty officer steps in to assist the CHP officer in subduing the woman and then handcuffing her.
In the CHP news conference, O’Quinn explained that his officer was attempting to restrain the woman who, according to the incident report, suffered no injuries during the arrest. The incident report also contains the officer’s statement that she was resisting arrest and attempting to flee as he struggled to restrain her. O’Quinn added that the woman, who would not divulge her name to police, is currently undergoing psychiatric testing. He defended his officer against charges of excessive force by saying that the video does not present a view of the entire incident. He reminded reporters that the CHP undergoes special training involving citizens who are not aware of the increased danger involved in being on the freeway due to the “speed and conditions.” He would offer no comment on what caused the officer to respond to the situation as he did.
Neither the officer’s name or the woman’s name have been made public, but the officer involved has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing and pending the results.
Local civil rights (the officer in the video is white; the woman is black) and women’s rights leaders in the community held a press conference of their own to express their outrage over the incident, during which O’Quinn reassured the community leaders that the CHP prides itself on being accountable to both citizens and fellow officers in their behavior; a point on which activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson agreed, saying that it is the good reputation of the CHP in the past that makes the current incident so shocking. Hutchinson is calling for a federal investigation as well as the suspension of the officer involved pending a federal investigation’s findings.
By Jennifer Pfalz