Marlene Pinnock said she thought she was going to die as a California Highway Patrol officer straddled her, repeatedly punching her head, on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.
During an hour-long interview with The Associated Press on Sunday — her first public comments since the July 1 incident was caught on now-viral video by a passing driver — Pinnock spoke haltingly or in a whisper, occasionally putting her hands to her temples and grimacing.
Her attorney Caree Harper frequently interrupted her and limited her responses to a reporter's questions.
"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 said. Pinnock was released from the hospital last week after several weeks of treatment for head injuries and now slurs her speech, Harper said.
Pinnock is suing CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow and Officer Daniel L. Andrew in federal court for civil rights violations. The suit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of Pinnock's due process rights. The CHP hasn't identified the officer but said he had been on the job for 1 1/2 years and is on desk duty pending completion of the internal investigation.
Farrow met with community and civil rights leaders in Los Angeles multiple times last month and pledged that the investigation will conclude in weeks rather than the usual months. CHP Sgt. Melissa Hammond said Sunday that she couldn't comment on the ongoing investigation.
The CHP has said that Pinnock was endangering herself by walking on Interstate 10 and the officer was trying to restrain her.
Pinnock said she had been homeless for the last three to five years, occasionally staying at the Los Angeles Mission, a family member's home or on La Brea or Crenshaw.
Pinnock said she had been on her way to a safe place where friends could watch her sleep when the altercation occurred. Harper said the area Pinnock was headed to is one of those frequented by the homeless and only accessible by walking along the freeway ramp.
She was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold by Andrew after the incident, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press. Andrew said in his report that she was a danger to herself and wrote that "upon contacting the subject she was talking to herself. The subject began telling me 'I want to walk home' and called me 'the devil.' The subject then tried to walk into traffic lanes."
Harper didn't allow Pinnock to discuss the details leading up to the incident or her medical treatment.
"If in fact she did call him the devil is secondary to the fact that he proved to be either the devil or a close relative," Harper said. "Because he treated her in a manner nobody should ever be treated."
Pinnock is being supported by Harper to keep her off the street and is essentially "starting from scratch," her attorney said.
CHP investigators in July seized Pinnock's medical records and the clothing she was wearing during the incident from Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Harper said she was outraged by the violation of doctor-patient privacy and attorney-client privilege.
The incident has drawn outrage from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who called it police brutality and demanded the officer be fired, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.