The South Pasadena police shooting which resulted in the death of 49-year-old actress Vanessa Marquez on Aug. 30, 2018 complied with SPPD’s use of force policies, according to a report commissioned by the Department. The rules, along with a long list of other police policies and procedures, are set for final City Council review in November after months of scrutiny by the Public Safety Commission, which did not recommend any changes to the use of force rules at play during the Marquez shooting. The report, separate from the LA District Attorney’s review of the incident, was aimed specifically at determining if the actions of the officers at the scene complied with all department rules and procedures. It concluded the officers’ actions were “objectively reasonable.”
Although the report is dated July 24, 2020, it was not released until Oct. 22 pursuant to public records request filed by the South Pasadenan News. Asked if the report had been shared with city council members, the city manager’s office said only that it was available to them.
The report echoes the Feb. 25, 2020 findings of Shannon Presby of the LA District Attorney’s office, who found that Officers Gilberto Carrillo and Christopher Perez acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others when they fired a total 12 rounds toward Marquez, who was at the top of a staircase just outside her apartment on Fremont Ave. She was holding what turned out to be a BB gun.
“South Pasadena Police Department policy requires that officer shall only use force, including deadly force, when it reasonably appears necessary considering the totality of the circumstances at the time of the incident,” according to the report by Chuck Thomas, a private investigator with Norman A. Traub Associates, a Westlake, CA organization of police executives and attorneys who specialize in workplace investigations. Over the past two months, Traub has billed the city nearly $12,000 for four police investigations.
“The evidence supports that Officer Carrillo’s and Perez’ use of deadly force against Marquez was objectively reasonable. Their actions were in compliance with South Pasadena Police Department Policy Section 300 – Use of Force.”
Thomas said while he conducted no interviews, he reviewed the sheriff department’s investigation, which included statements, photos and video and radio recordings.
According to a key section of the report, three officers were at the bottom of the stairs, calling out to Marquez to drop her weapon and come out with nothing in her hands. They heard the sound of Marquez racking the slide on a semi-automatic gun, like the one she had pointed at Carrillo several moments earlier in her bedroom.
“Marquez came out of her apartment. The officers immediately saw that she had a handgun in her hand and had it pointed in their direction as she began advancing toward them. The evidence supports that the officers were in fear of their lives at that time. Carrillo had also been in fear of his life, and for others at the apartment, when he first saw Marquez pull out the gun from underneath the clutter on her bed and pointed it at him. As Marquez was only approximately 10 feet from the officers, essentially had the ‘high ground’ and was advancing on them, Carrillo and Perez fired their weapons at her.”
Thomas writes that the evidence supports “specific issues,” namely:
• Marquez’ actions caused Carrillo, Perez and Officer Arthur Burgos to be reasonably in fear of their lives and for others in the immediate area.
• The officers properly identified themselves as police officers.
• The officers repeatedly told Marquez to put down her weapon, to come out with nothing in her hands and that they essentially were there only to help her.
• The officers did not make any threatening, derogatory, or offensive comments to Marquez.
• The officers’ belief that Marquez’ weapon was an actual firearm was reasonable due to its resemblance to a real gun.
• The officers’ initial entry into Marquez’ apartment was reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances that they (officers) were faced with at that time and that their motivation was to check on her well-being.
• Marquez had a history of suicidal thoughts. In an April 17, 2018 Facebook post, she wrote that she had been talking to a doctor regarding assisted suicide.
Thomas concluded that “Marquez’ actions supported that she may have essentially wanted the officers to kill her.”
“The evidence supports that Carrillo and Perez, and the other officers at the scene of the incident, showed significant restraint” and that they had gone to her apartment “with the intent of trying to help her.” He also said Sgt. Spencer Louie, the supervisor on the scene, “maintained an appropriate supervisory presence throughout the incident.”
“The evidence supports that Marquez’ actions placed Carrillo and Perez in a situation in which they faced an immediate and severe threat to themselves, and possibly others who were in the area. They had repeatedly used verbal commands in an attempt to de-escalate the situation and have Marquez surrender without any use of force. However, her holding a gun and pointing it at the officers eliminated other use of force options for Carrillo and/or Perez. The firing of their weapons at her was reasonable and necessary to eliminate the immediate threat she posed to them. It would have been impractical for the officers to resort to another use of force option at the time she advanced on them.”
Click HERE to follow the timeline of events surrounding the death of Vanessa Marquez.