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In fatal Vanessa Marquez shooting, officers will face no criminal charges

Vanessa Marquez played Nurse Wendy Goldman on “ER.”
Vanessa Marquez played Nurse Wendy Goldman on “ER.”
(Alice S. Hall / NBCUniversal)

Los Angeles County prosecutors will not file criminal charges against two police officers who fatally shot “ER” actress Vanessa Marquez inside her South Pasadena home in August 2018 during a wellness check, according to a memo from the agency released Monday.

The district attorney’s office determined that South Pasadena Officers Gilberto Carrillo and Christopher Perez acted legally when they fired 12 rounds at the 49-year-old after she brandished a replica firearm.

“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,” Shannon Presby, head deputy district attorney, wrote in the memo.

Police had been dispatched to Marquez’s apartment in the 1100 block of Fremont Avenue on Aug. 30, 2018, at the behest of a friend who was concerned for the actress’ well-being. When officers arrived, they knocked on the door for 10 minutes and eventually entered the apartment.

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The living area was stacked with boxes, furniture and other items in what was described by authorities as “hoarding conditions” that made it difficult for officers to open the door and move through the unit, video from a body-worn camera shows.

As soon as Marquez saw one of the officers, she screamed and began having a seizure, the video shows. Officers and a county mental health clinician spoke with Marquez for more than an hour in an effort to persuade her to accept medical help. Police said at the time that she was uncooperative, may have been suffering from mental health issues and appeared to be unable to care for herself.

After Carrillo told Marquez that she was going to be taken to a hospital on a psychiatric hold, Marquez grabbed a pair of scissors and what officers thought was a handgun and pointed it at them, according to the memo.

“She has a gun! Gun! Gun! Gun! Gun!” Carrillo yelled as he ushered other personnel out of the apartment. He yelled several times for Marquez to “drop the gun” as he exited the apartment and continued down a staircase into a common area.

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When Marquez emerged from the apartment, Carrillo told investigators he heard the sounds of a gun magazine being inserted and a slide being racked.

When Carrillo saw the handgun being pointed in their direction, he was “scared out of his mind” and fired approximately eight or nine rounds from his .40-caliber handgun through the drywall toward Marquez. Perez also fired his gun, according to the memo.

The officers retrieved a weapon after the shooting and determined it was a BB gun that resembled a pistol. Marquez suffered two gunshot wounds and was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

In 2019, Marquez’s mother, Delia McElfresh, filed a wrongful-death claim against the city of South Pasadena seeking $20 million along with burial and funeral expenses. The status of the claim was not immediately clear Monday.

Marquez was best known for her recurring role as nurse Wendy Goldman on the popular medical drama “ER,” which ran for 15 seasons until 2009. Marquez appeared on the show from 1994 to 1997. She also starred as student Ana Delgado in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” which told the story of East Los Angeles math teacher Jaime Escalante.

In the years before her death, Marquez used social media to reference her struggles with celiac disease and seizures. She wrote on Facebook in March 2018 that she was “terminally ill.”

Marquez in 2005 starred in an episode on the first season of the reality television show “Intervention,” which delved into how a compulsive shopping addiction created financial problems for the actress, according to a synopsis of the episode on Amazon.

She grabbed headlines in 2017 when she accused “ER” co-star George Clooney of helping to blacklist her from the series. Clooney has publicly denied the allegations.

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Marquez had posted on social media in the months before the fatal encounter about her desire to die and her purchase of an “air” gun that resembled a Glock. Minutes before she was fatally shot, she wrote on Facebook that “there shooting cremate me pour ashes over Hollywood sign.”

“Her intention, as evidenced by her final Facebook post, sadly appears to have been to end her life,” Presby wrote in the memo.


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