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Woman hit by California Highway Patrol officer says feared for her life

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A woman punched repeatedly by a California Highway Patrol officer during an arrest that was caught on video has said in television interviews that she felt the officer was trying to beat her to death.

Marlene Pinnock, 51, who has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Highway Patrol officials over the arrest, said she suffers slurred speech from the punches to the head she suffered by the side of a freeway near downtown Los Angeles.

"It was hard bangs, like he was just trying to beat me to death, like he was trying to kill me," Pinnock told Los Angeles broadcaster KABC on Sunday, speaking to the media for the first time since the July 1 incident.

The video of the arrest, which was recorded by a passing motorist, drew widespread attention after it was posted online and broadcast by news stations. The arresting officer has been removed from patrol duty pending an investigation.

California Highway Patrol commissioner Joe Farrow has pledged his agency's probe will be completed within weeks, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the local U.S. Attorney's Office also are looking at the incident, said Highway Patrol spokesman Officer Edgar Figueroa.

Before the arrest, the Highway Patrol officer spotted Pinnock walking shoeless along the shoulder of the freeway and stepping into traffic lanes, according to the Highway Patrol.

When the officer told her to stop and approached her, she became combative and he arrested her in fear of her safety and his own, the Highway Patrol said.

The video, which outraged civil rights activists, shows the officer throwing Pinnock to the ground at the edge of the freeway, straddling her and punching her in the head several times.

"I can't understand why, because I did nothing to him," Pinnock told KABC.

Figueroa declined to comment on her statements.

Pinnock also told other Los Angeles news stations she feared for her life during the arrest in a round of media interviews on Sunday.

She told KABC she has been homeless for about five years. Her attorney did not allow Pinnock to answer a question from the station's reporter about why she was walking by the freeway before her arrest.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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