LOS ANGELES (TheBlaze/AP) — The family of a woman seen on a cellphone video repeatedly punched in the head by a California Highway Patrol officer want authorities held accountable for "beating a great-grandmother in broad daylight," according to a Los Angeles attorney.
"We want the focus to be what he was doing to her, not what she was doing" prior to the confrontation, said attorney Career Harper, who said she is representing the family. "She was getting beat like an animal. No one should ever be beat like that."
The video shows the woman struggling and trying to sit up while the officer pins her down on the side of Interstate 10 and punches her in the face and head until an off-duty law enforcement officer appears and helps him handcuff her.
The woman had been walking on the freeway west of downtown Los Angeles, endangering herself and people in traffic, and the officer was trying to restrain her, CHP Assistant Chief Chris O'Quinn said at a news conference. O'Quinn said the woman had begun walking off the freeway but returned when the confrontation occurred.
Harper declined to disclose the woman's name or answer questions about what the woman was doing along the edge of one of the city's busiest freeways. The woman is undergoing psychiatric evaluation, authorities said.
The CHP has vowed to carry out a thorough investigation.
Passing Driver David Diaz recorded the Tuesday incident and provided it to media outlets including The Associated Press. He told the AP in a phone interview Friday that he arrived as the woman was walking off the freeway. He said she turned around only after the officer shouted something to her.
The officer is on administrative leave while the patrol investigates. He has not been identified.
The video caught the attention of local civil rights leaders, who expressed shock and outrage at their own news conference.
"Speaking for the women of this community, we are angry, we are upset," said Lita Herron of the Youth Advocacy Coalition.
O'Quinn said the CHP would answer community concerns and that an investigative team already has been assembled and has begun its work.
"We are known as an agency that really polices itself," O'Quinn said.
Community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, speaking at the local leaders' news conference, agreed.
"Over the years, CHP has had a very good track record in terms of community relations," Hutchinson said. "That's why this was so shocking."
O'Quinn said the incident report listed no injuries for the woman, who would not give her name.
O'Quinn said he could not say what prompted the officer to act as he did. But he noted California Highway Patrol officers have a heightened sense of the dangers of being on the freeway compared with a citizen "who is not accustomed to the speed and conditions," especially outside of a car.
"The most dangerous thing that we face is traffic," O'Quinn said.