South Pasadena official — the new mayor, a councilmember and the city attorney’s office — this week all continued to refuse to comment or to take further action to review the city’s policy decision not to release any new information on the Aug. 30, 2018 officer-involved shooting of actress Vanessa Marquez, who would have turned 51 December 21.
Their latest chance to do so took place when students from the University of California Irvine’s Civil Rights Litigation Clinic came to Wednesday’s City Council meeting to press for a response to their recent public records request for extensive documentation of the incident, in which Marquez was shot to death by South Pasadena police officers at her home on Fremont Ave. during a so-called “wellness check.”
The city has rejected at least a half dozen Public Records Act requests for related information, such as the names of the officers involved or body camera footage. The city has cited an ongoing investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which takes an average of 21 months to complete officer-involved shooting investigations, slightly longer when there is a fatality.
“You have the power to release this information,” said Mackenzie Anderson, a UCI law student. “Some of it is required to be released immediately.” She cited a 2014 state Supreme Court case, Long Beach Policy Officers Association v. City of Long Beach, which said that names of officers involved in a shooting must be immediately released unless there is a “particularized” showing of danger to those officers. Anderson said there is no reason to believe that is the case here.
Asked about the presentation, newly appointed Mayor Robert Joe said he had no comment, and could not comment. “You’ve gotta talk to our attorney.” The assistant city attorney deferred to city attorney, who was not present.
Councilman Michael Cacciotti told the South Pasadenan News that he and the Council share the community’s concerns about the lack of information released. “I would like to know as soon as possible too,” but he said he could not comment due to unspecified potential litigation. Himself an attorney, Cacciotti said he’d not spoken to the city attorney about the Long Beach case or other relevant legal precedents (such as Eureka v Superior Court) and would not commit to doing so.
Anderson told the Council that state law provides the only reason not to release body camera footage is if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that doing so would interfere with an investigation. It is “likely” officers have already used the footage in their investigation and so “there is no clear and convincing evidence” that release of the footage would interfere with the AG investigation.
She also argued it is the “public policy of the state of California to release footage and underlying documents” when there is a police shooting. “There is nothing legally preventing you from releasing this information,” she emphasized.
Others also spoke in favor of release at the Council session. The UCI students have been engaged by Los Angeles filmmaker Cyndy Fujikawa, who is working on a production about Marquez.