Family, friends and supporters of Vanessa Marquez are expected to hold a press conference today to announce the filing of a claim for civil damages related to the alleged wrongful death against the City of South Pasadena and the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of the Hollywood film and TV actress in late August.
The actress was killed August 30 at her South Pasadena apartment after officers spent 90-minutes with her in response to a wellness check reportedly instigated by Marquez’s landlord, concerned after not being able to roust the actress who was known to be suffering from a number of painful and debilitating diseases, including celiac disease, fibromyalgia and depression.
At the end of the 90 minutes, according to police and witness accounts, authorities attempted to forcibly take the 90-pound Marquez to a local hospital after seeing her suffer from multiple seizures. Marquez apparently refused treatment and suddenly pulled out what appeared to be a handgun, South Pasadena police officials said hours after the incident. The alleged weapon turned out to be a pellet gun resembling a Smith & Wesson model.
Witnesses told The South Pasadenan that numerous shots were fired, as many as 19. Police, however, have told The SouthPasadenan.com News that the number of rounds fired was much less and that a total of two officers were involved in the shooting.
Today’s press conference will be held at 6 p.m. in front of City Hall.
Alhambra-based attorneys Vicki I. Sarmiento and Dale K. Galipo said the claim was being filed on the behalf of Marquez’s mother, Delia McElfresh, according to a statement obtained by the SouthPasadenan.
The attorneys wrote that the lawsuit is being filed “to vindicate Vanessa’s civil rights and to help Ms. McElfresh get answers as to why her daughter was killed in such a violent manner.” They also indicated “additional information” would be provided during the public event.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is investigating the case, as is routine when local police departments are involved in a shooting death. That investigation may wrap up soon, with the case being sent to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for further evaluation. The DA’s office could exonerate the officers or file charges, possibly against individual officers and/or the City of South Pasadena police department, depending on investigative findings.
City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe said in a statement soon after the shooting occurred that the city believed that “our officers acted appropriately under a tragic set of circumstances. We look forward to hearing the results of the investigation. In the meantime, we are asking the public to be patient and wait until the facts of the case are confirmed before making judgments about the incident.”
To date, no findings have been shared with the public.
The city council is scheduled to gather today for a closed session at 6:30 p.m. to discuss “liability claims,” according to the city website.
Attorney Sarmiento described Marquez as someone “who is mourned by many friends and supporters who remember her for her contributions to film and for providing a Latino presence in the movie and TV industry.”
Colleagues, close friends and fans are currently spearheading an effort to have Marquez mentioned on the annual televised “Oscars in Memorium” segment during Hollywood’s biggest award show this Sunday. Marquez was not included during the televised moment for the SAG Awards.
Marquez did not possess a single professional acting credit when she nabbed the role of student Ana in the iconic film “Stand and Deliver,” which depicted the story of Garfield High School math teacher Jaime Escalante. The real-life Escalante taught AP calculus and convinced low-performing students of Latino descent that they could not only conquer calculus but they could also go on to live successful lives in or out of the barrio if they could just believe in themselves,
Marquez infused her character with the hope, strength and perseverance that the role called for and then some, say her colleagues.
“She was as powerful as any artist I had ever worked with,” actor Edward James Olmos recently told the The Los Angeles Times about the actress. Olmos earned an Oscar nomination for his role in the film and is currently starring on Mayans M.C. on the FX Network. “I am so honored to have known her and all the young talent that blossomed from that experience.”
Daniel Villarreal, a fellow actor in the Escalante-inspired film, has taken the extra step to ensure Maquez’s legacy remains intact.
Villareal has been demanding answers from police. He has reached out to Marquez’s mother to lend support. He has been working with a group of people who either worked with Marquez or befriended her in Hollywood to push for the Oscar night memorium. He pushes an online petition to get Marquez mentioned on Oscar night on his own Facebook page.
“Our dear friend and sister, Vanessa Marquez, was violently murdered by the South Pasadena police,” Villareal told the SouthPasadenan about his efforts since his close friend’s death. “We want answers. We demand answers. And we will get them,” he said.
Villareal added: “This is about Vanessa’s memory and to make sure her legacy is correct, that she is not seen as some kind of criminal that they may paint her to be. And this is for all the people who suffered the same kind of treatment when they needed help from police and this is for all those people in the future who we do not want to be treated the same way as Vanessa was treated in the end.”