The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department this week confirmed that South Pasadena police officers present during the officer-involved shooting of actress Vanessa Marquez were wearing body cameras, and that they were both on and recording during the event.
Lt. Brandon R. Dean told the South Pasadenan News that the department has custody of the tapes but that they have not been released. Although the Sheriff’s office has completed its investigation of the incident, the LA District Attorney is still reviewing the matter.
Information on whether there were body cams and if so, what they recorded, has been one of the biggest demands made by Marquez’s allies, including the attorney for her mother, who has filed a $20 million wrongful death claim with the city, ever since the Aug. 30, 2018 shooting.
Minerva Garcia, a friend of Marquez, reiterated the demand last night during a gathering, memorializing Marquez and calling for more evidence regarding the shooting held in front of her former home on Fremont Avenue. The SPPD purchased body cameras about two years ago, she said. “Were those cameras on when they had their interaction with Vanessa?”
Previously, the only acknowledgement of the existence of the tapes by authorities was during South Pasadena’s Sept. 10 Public Safety Commission meeting. According to the minutes of that meeting, then Interim Police Chief Brian Solinsky reported that the DA’s office took evidence including “police body cameras.”
Also this week, the city of South Pasadena acknowledged for the first time that the city’s police report of the incident is a public document. To date they city has declined requests for that document from Marquez’s allies and others. City spokesman John Pope said the report has very little detail that has not already been released, but does include the names of the officers, which have not. Due to this sensitivity, he said release of the report would be subject to a public records act (PRA) request, and said it is unclear if the names of the officers would be redacted under any release.
However the state PRA code, while prohibiting release of law enforcement investigations, provides an exception stating that “state and local law enforcement agencies shall disclose the names and addresses of persons involved in, or witnesses other than confidential informants to, the incident…unless the disclosure would endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the investigation.”
Moreover, the names of officers in officer-involved shootings are routinely released in LA District Attorney investigation reports. Some law enforcement agencies have at times also disclosed both names and body camera recordings before investigations are completed.
I appreciate your doggedness on this story. A few questions:
“Lt. Brandon R. Dean told the South Pasadenan News that the department has custody of the tapes but that they have not been released.”
Does the Sheriff’s Department have sole custody of all footage, or does the SPPD have copies? If the SPPD doesn’t have copies, they can’t control the release of material that isn’t in their possession. If they do have copies, they should release the footage. It’s critical to find out who does and who doesn’t have copies.
Also, about this:
“Although the Sheriff’s office has completed its investigation of the incident, the LA District Attorney is still reviewing the matter.”
If the investigation is complete, and the investigative material is only being reviewed, the exemption in the California Public Records Act for documents related to ongoing investigations should be exhausted. What does the city attorney say about the tapes?
Also, what does the city attorney say about AB 748?
Has the South Pasadenan delivered a written request for this footage to the city clerk and city attorney, under the terms of the California Public Records Act?
Keep going — you’re doing a good job with this. What’s the point of body cameras if the footage disappears forever? The city should release the tapes. Show what happened. Many years ago, when I worked for a newspaper in Claremont, the police provided public accountability after a (fully justified) police shooting by promptly showing the dashcam footage in an open meeting of the city’s police commission. Something like that could be a reasonable start, here.
Ben Tansey is doing serious reporting on this, and I’m glad to see it.
There was not a “commemoration of the shooting” but a gathering to remember her and news conference to call for the release of all information. It was held on the one year anniversary of the Officer involved fatal shooting of Vanessa Marquez.