Officers involved in Vanessa Marquez death receive no criminal charges

Story by Adam Kwoh
News Editor

Photo courtesy of Alice S. Hall / NBCU Photo Bank

The South Pasadena Police Department released body camera footage taken during an officer-involved shooting in August 2018 that resulted in the death of ER star and resident Vanessa Marquez on Monday, Mar. 2. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office also released a memo asserting officers on the scene acted in self-defense and the county will not pursue further legal action in the case. The body camera footage contains sensitive material.

The newly released footage from body cameras of SPPD officers Gilberto Carrillo and Christopher Perez depicts both officers entering Marquez’s apartment for a “welfare check” after an out-of-state friend contacted the fire department. Marquez appeared to begin having a seizure as soon as Carillo entered her room, leading Carillo to call in a licensed clinician from the Department of Mental Health to speak with Marquez.

Officers then asked Marquez to go with them under psychiatric hold to Huntington Hospital to see a mental health professional, believing Marquez was unable to take care of herself. Marquez insisted that “[she] isn’t going” multiple times. In the footage, Marquez appears to have pulled out scissors and a replica handgun in front of Carrillo, at which point Carrillo backed out to the lower staircase of her apartment.

Marquez presumably posted on Facebook saying “[they’re] shooting cremate me pour ashes over Hollywood sign” before heading outside of her apartment door where Carrillo and Perez shot Marquez multiple times. Marquez suffered two bullet wounds and was pronounced dead.

“Despite efforts to communicate in conjunction with firm commands, Marquez remained silent. She held the handgun in a manner that conveyed readiness to use it” district attorney Jackie Lacey wrote in the Los Angeles County’s memo. “Both officers, in that moment, actually and reasonably feared for their lives.”

Delia McElfresh, Marquez’s mother, filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of South Pasadena in February 2019. Marquez’s friends and family have continued to push for legal action since the shooting, scrutinizing the city and police department for not releasing the names of police officers or body camera footage until more than a year after the incident.

“There’s no clear or convincing evidence that [body camera footage] would interfere in an investigation,” University of California, Irvine law student Mackenzie Anderson said at a city council meeting in December 2019. “It’s public policy of the state of California to release any footage and underlying documents when there is an officer-involved shooting.”

Marquez’s friends and family also continued to remember Marquez, celebrating her life at a memorial in 2018 and holding multiple “Justice for Vanessa Marquez” protests.

“She had a good heart and she didn’t deserve to lose her life in a tragic manner,” Marquez’s friend Patricia Puerta said at a December 2019 city council meeting. “We’re not going to let her go to rest. We’re not going to forget.”

Independent filmmaker Cyndy Fujikawa has been working on a documentary currently entitled “90 Minutes Later,” documenting the perspectives of Marquez’s family and friends following her death. The documentary is still in production and no release date has been announced.

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