Friends, colleagues and supporters of the late actress Vanessa Marquez came to South Pasadena Wednesday to announce the filing a wrongful death action over her killing by South Pasadena police officers. The group included actors and cast members from Stand and Deliver, the 1988 film that brought Marquez fame. They included actors Richard Montoya of Culture Clash and cast members Patrick Baca, Will Gotay, Daniel Villarreal, and others.
The group South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform also made an appearance with some two dozen demonstrators, with organizer London Lang voicing the support for justice for Marquez.
The filing in LA Superior Court, made on behalf of Marquez’s 80-year-old mother Delia McElfresh, comes 16 months after McElfresh filed a $20 million with the city in connection with the Aug. 30, 2018 incident that took place during a “welfare check” at Marquez’ home on Fremont Ave.
The city has never formally accepted or rejected the claim, said Vicki Sarmiento, one of McElfresh’s three attorneys.
The LA District Attorney on March 1 determined that the officers who shot Marquez, Christopher Perez and Gilberto Carrillo, “acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others.”
VIDEO: Esteban Lopez | SouthPasadenan.com News
On March 5 South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz said with the close of the DA’s investigation, his department would commence its own investigation of whether department policies and procedures were followed during the incident. He said the review, undertaken by a third party, could take up to 60 days. This week Ortiz told the South Pasadenan News that the review is still ongoing.
“The situation called for de-escalation and there were multiple options available to the officers if they were in fact concerned for Ms. Marquez’s well-being,” the lawsuit states. “There was no urgency to forcibly remove Ms. Marquez from her home.” Instead, more officers “stormed into her building,” including Perez, who arrived with an AR-22 rifle.
The complaint for damages names the city, six officers and 15 unnamed individuals. It asserts state and federal claims for negligence, unlawful entry, excessive force, inadequate training and substantive due process. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
Sarmiento said McElfresh wanted to see if the DA or the City “would take some action against the officers, or if the processes in place would result in some accountability for the shooting death of her daughter. But the DA said everything was within policy for officers to defend themselves. She thinks an honest and fair evaluation of this case is contrary to that finding,” leaving litigation as her only option to seek justice for her daughter.
When the City of South Pasadena was reached for comment, they replied, “The City has not been served with the lawsuit and has not seen a copy; therefore, we cannot comment at this time.”
In the meantime filmmaker Cyndy Fujikawa has commenced work on a documentary about the case, students at UC Irvine’s Civil Rights Litigation Project have taken an interest and police tactics have come under national scrutiny in response to the killings of unarmed black citizens such as George Floyd by police.
The Marquez shooting is “exactly the kind of lethal and unnecessary police action that has led so many in the country to call out for police reform,” Sarmiento said. “Ms. Marquez was in her home minding her own business and instead of receiving assistance from medical professionals she was shot to death.”