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Family of ‘ER’ Actress Vanessa Marquez Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit


The mother of actress Vanessa Marquez, best known for her role in the television drama “ER,” has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against officers representing the City of South Pasadena, California. Marquez’s mother, Delia McElfresh, filed the suit on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The complaint cites “negligent and reckless” actions on the part of city police officers related to Marquez’s August 2018 death following a welfare check that led to her being shot multiple times. Marquez was 49 at the time of her death.

On August 30, 2018, police arrived at the 1100 Block of Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena at approximately 2 p.m. local time to conduct said welfare check. Upon their arrival, Marquez was reportedly having seizures and appeared to be suffering from mental issues, according to officials. Officers reportedly tried to assist Marquez for nearly 90 minutes, repeatedly offering her medical assistance to no avail. The police report indicates the situation escalated when Marquez armed herself with what appeared to be a handgun at one point, and police then proceeded to open fire. The weapon turned out to be a BB gun, investigators said.

In March the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office released an internal review of the incident which concluded officers Gilberto Carrillo and Christopher Perez “acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others.” Neither officer was charged for the fatal shooting. Authorities also released bodycam footage showing police arriving at Marquez’s home which, according to officials, was “in complete disarray due to hoarding conditions.” The video appears to show Marquez in bed, repeatedly shouting “seizure” and “don’t take me to the hospital.”

Shannon Presby, head deputy Los Angeles County district attorney, issued a memo declaring, “The evidence demonstrates that Carrillo and Perez actually and reasonably believed Marquez posed an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death.”

The wrongful death lawsuit disputes the claim that Marquez was suffering from mental issues or was a danger to the officers.

The complaint states that despite the initial welfare check inquiry being for “medical assistance,” and a specific request having been made for a “response by paramedics with the South Pasadena Fire Department,” multiple armed police officers from South Pasadena were the ones to respond. Furthermore, the suit states one of the officers involved in the shooting “falsely claimed Ms. Marquez pointed a gun at him and then at herself,” resulting in police fatally shooting the actress.

“Their armed presence, coupled with the attempted removal of Ms. Marquez from her home against her will, was a militaristic, menacing, and threatening response to a frail and visibly debilitated woman who was exercising her right to remain in her home,” reads the suit. “Ms. Marquez’s death was the result of overreaction, excessive use of force, and gross mishandling of the situation.”

Vicki Sarmiento, an attorney working on the wrongful case on behalf of McElfresh, said in a statement, “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.”

Terri Highsmith, city attorney for South Pasadena, declined to comment on the lawsuit, stating the city had not been served nor seen a copy of the complaint as of this morning.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.