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Mother of Vanessa Marquez files claim against South Pasadena over actress’ shooting

Mother of Vanessa Marquez files claim against South Pasadena over actress’ shooting
Vanessa Marquez, shown as nurse Wendy Goldman in the TV series "ER." Marquez's mother has filed a claim against the city of South Pasadena over the death of her daughter, who was fatally shot by police in August. (NBC / NBC via Getty Images)

In a claim seeking $20 million from South Pasadena, the mother of Vanessa Marquez says poor tactics, negligence and overreaction on the part of police led to the actress’ fatal shooting last year.

Marquez, 49, was killed on Aug. 30 by South Pasadena police, who had gone to her apartment for a wellness check. When they arrived, Marquez was having a seizure and would not cooperate with officers’ offers for medical attention, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the shooting.

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As Marquez talked with police and a mental health clinician, she grabbed what appeared to be a handgun and pointed it at officers, sheriff’s officials said. Two of them fired and Marquez was struck at least once in the torso. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Police later determined that the weapon Marquez allegedly held was a BB gun, sheriff’s officials said.

On Wednesday, Marquez’s mother, Delia McElfresh, filed a claim against South Pasadena, seeking $20 million in damages for her daughter’s wrongful death, along with burial and funeral expenses. Her attorneys say they hope the legal action will help “vindicate” Marquez’s civil rights and compel the city to explain how a wellness check escalated into a fatal shooting.

A spokesman for the city of South Pasadena declined to comment, citing the sheriff’s investigation. The Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the status of the investigation.

Marquez was working in a fast-food restaurant and had no professional acting experience when she won the role of Ana Delgado, a soft-spoken high school student in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver.” She answered a casting notice and scored an audition, riding two buses from her hometown of Montebello to read lines in West Hollywood.

“She walked in with school books in hand and created the role of Ana right before our eyes,” wrote Toni Livingston-Hix, the film’s casting director, in a letter asking that Marquez be recognized during the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars telecast.

Marquez “was as powerful as any artist I had ever worked with,” Edward James Olmos told The Times. Olmos starred in “Stand and Deliver” as the East Los Angeles calculus teacher Jaime Escalante.

Marquez went on to play nurse Wendy Goldman on the television drama “ER.”

In recent years, Marquez had drifted from friends she’d met while filming “Stand and Deliver.” She wrote on Facebook that she was “terminally ill,” and said that she’d been harassed, then shunned and blacklisted, by prominent figures in the film industry.

Stephanie DeWolfe, South Pasadena’s city manager, said after Marquez’s death that police had acted appropriately and made “every attempt to resolve the situation peacefully.”

In the claim, McElfrish’s attorneys said police tried to remove Marquez without legal grounds from her second-floor Fremont Avenue apartment. Because of their negligence and “poor tactics,” the officers allowed the situation to escalate, culminating in their “unjustifiable” use of deadly force, the claim says.

The attorneys, Vicki I. Sarmiento and Dale K. Galipo, also criticized South Pasadena for not releasing the police report, autopsy report, body camera footage or audio recordings from the incident.

In another shooting involving South Pasadena police and a lookalike firearm in 2017, detectives serving a warrant in Burbank fatally shot 41-year-old Marco Cardoza. The Burbank Police Department, which investigated the shooting, said Cardoza had pointed the replica handgun at South Pasadena detectives before several of them opened fire.

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