The mother of former actress Vanessa Marquez, who was shot by police at her home in 2018, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Pasadena.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that while paramedics were performing a wellness check on the 49-year-old, police escalated the tension once she refused to be taken to a hospital.
Marquez was living in South Pasadena, California when the shooting occurred on August 30 2018, when friends asked paramedics to check on her, according to Delia McElfresh’s lawsuit, which is seeking unspecified damages.
Her mother’s lawsuit states that the paramedics brought police officers, who disregarded the paramedic’s assertion that Marquez had a right to refuse to be taken to hospital.
Marquez was best known for playing nurse Wendy Goldman on the popular NBC medical drama ER, also starring George Clooney
Instead, the suit claims, that they escalated a confrontation that ultimately led to her death.
‘This is exactly the kind of lethal and unnecessary police action that has led so many in the country to call out for police reform,’ attorney Vicki Sarmiento said.
‘This was a situation in which Ms. Marquez was in her home minding her own business and instead of receiving assistance from medical professionals, she was shot to death.’
Marquez’s mother McElfesh reportedly was reluctant to bring the lawsuit against the city, hoping that the officers involved would be held accountable, but she decided to file her case so that her daughter could receive justice, according to Sarmiento.
Following an investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office concluded that the two officers at the scene had acted in self-defense when Marquez threatened them with a handgun, which was later discovered to be a BB-type gun.
‘She was suffering from some problems, eating disorder,’ Sgt. Joe Mendoza of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told reporters at the scene. ‘When they (officers) arrived, she was suffering a seizure.’
Marquez is best known for playing nurse Wendy Goldman on the popular NBC medical drama ER, that also starred George Clooney, between 1994 and 1997.
Distressing bodycam footage was released earlier this year showing the moments that led up to Marquez being shot by the police officers.
In the footage, Marquez can be seen sitting in her bedroom in cluttered ‘hoarding conditions’ after police officers were called to the property in South Pasadena.
‘I’m not going,’ the actress tells the pair of officers after they tell her is being taken into custody for her own safety. She is then seeing drawing a pair of scissors from a handbag, followed by pistol, which was later found to be BB gun.
One of the officers says: ‘Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, s**t, she’s got a gun. She’s got a gun. Gun! Gun! Gun!’ And the police immediately back out of the apartment.
Marquez can be heard asking the officer to ‘kill her’ as they tell her to drop the gun and back out of the apartment.
In harrowing footage, the officers can be heard pleading with Marquez again to drop the gun while they wait at the bottom of the stairs. The actress appears on the steps holding the gun before the officers open fire.
In harrowing footage, the officers can be heard pleading with Vanessa Marquez to drop the gun while they wait at the bottom of the stairs. The actress appears on the steps holding the gun (circled) before the officers open fire.
Marquez is then seeing drawing a pair of scissors from a handbag, followed by pistol, which was later found to be BB gun
Marquez, 49, can be seen lying on her bed when police enter the property in South Pasadena, California, after they were called by a concerned friend on August 30, 2018
Twelve rounds were fired at Marquez and she was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead from wounds to the torso.
The release of the footage comes after Los Angeles County prosecutors yesterday decided not to file charges against South Pasadena Officers Gilberto Carrillo and Christopher Perez.
Shannon Presby, head deputy district attorney, wrote in a memo: ‘In this incident, the evidence demonstrates that Carrillo and Perez actually and reasonably believed Marquez posed an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death.’
Police later determined that the weapon Marquez had allegedly picked up was a realistic-looking BB gun. Indeed, when Marquez emerged from the apartment, Carrillo told investigators he heard the sound of a clip being inserted and a slide being racked.
Carillo said he was ‘scared out of his mind,’ when Marquez pointed the gun in their direction, The Los Angeles Times reported.
According to the Deputy DA’s memo around eight or nine rounds were fired from Carillo’s .40-caliber pistol through drywall, while the other officer fired his rifle at the actress.
Presby wrote in the memo: ‘Her intention, as evidenced by her final Facebook post, sadly appears to have been to end her life’
The police had arrived around an hour before the shooting started and Marquez began screaming on seeing them and had a seizure, the investigation heard.
The messy conditions of her apartment, described by police as ‘in complete disarray due to hoarding conditions,’ were such that the officers struggled to open doors.
Medical officers and the police had spent considerable time in trying to persuade her she needed medical help before the situation deteriorated.
The police said her uncooperative state and apparent inability to care for herself led them to believe she was suffering from mental health issues.
In the years leading up to her death, Marquez had been vocal on social media about her struggles with various health problems, including what she described as terminal celiac disease, pulmonary embolism, osteoporosis and seizures.
In March 2018, she had written on Facebook that she was ‘terminally ill.’
Deputy DA Presby wrote in the memo: ‘Her intention, as evidenced by her final Facebook post, sadly appears to have been to end her life.’
Marquez had written: ‘there shooting cremate me pour ashes over Hollywood sign.’ It was posted three minutes before officers opened fire at 1.49pm.
Last year Marquez’s family filed a $20million claim alleging negligence against the city of South Pasadena.
Marquez played nurse Wendy Goldman (pictured) on television drama ‘ER’ for three seasons
Her mother Delia McElfresh blamed the the actress’ death on poor tactics, negligence and overreaction by police who had no reason to use lethal action.
‘This was mishandled from the minute the call came in and officers were dispatched to the home,’ Vicki Sarmiento, an attorney for McElfresh, told NBCLA in February 2019.
Marquez is best known for playing nurse Wendy Goldman on the popular NBC medical drama ER starring George Clooney between 1994 and 1997.
In 2017, Marquez publicly accused the Oscar-winning actor and director of helping blacklist her after she spoke out about alleged harassment on the set of ER, including being subjected to racist and sexist remarks.
Clooney responded by insisting that he had no idea Marquez had been blacklisted and had played no part in it.
‘I had nothing to do with casting,’ the Ocean’s 11 star said in a statement. ‘I was an actor and only an actor. If she was told I was involved in any decision about her career then she was lied to. The fact that I couldn’t affect her career is only surpassed by the fact that I wouldn’t.’
After leaving ER, Marquez appeared in three episodes of the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle in 1999, followed by a few more roles in TV films and shorts.