More than a year after the South Pasadena Police Department’s officer-involved shooting of city resident and former actress Vanessa Marquez, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department confirmed this week that police were wearing body cameras during the encounter.
However, the footage has not yet been released, and the investigation, now in the hands of the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, continues — much to the frustration of the friends of Marquez who gathered outside her former Fremont Avenue home last Friday on the one-year anniversary of the shooting.
“They were equipped with body cameras at the time of the shooting,” Sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Dean told the Review on Wednesday.
Questions on whether body cams existed and what they picked up during the incident have been one of the biggest questions posed by friends and family of Marquez. The investigation by the Sheriff’s Department was concluded in April 2019 and the case is currently in the hands of DA Jackie Lacey’s office.
“We completed all of our interviews and everything and we handed everything over to the DA and they make the decision on filing (charges) or not,” said Dean.
Last Friday, a small group of residents, friends and co-workers of Marquez gathered for a memorial and press conference outside her former residence at 1133 Fremont Ave., where the shooting occurred.
Officers were at the residence on a welfare check of Marquez when, according to police, she drew a BB-style handgun on them, prompting them to exit her apartment. However, a police statement said, Marquez then exited the apartment and pointed the gun at officers again, prompting their fire.
Last Friday, with multiple press and TV news outlets in attendance, friends shared memories of Marquez — 49 at the time of her death — and continued to press for transparency from authorities. Many other details of the shooting, including the names of officers involved, have not been released.
“We are here to honor the life of our sister Vanessa Marquez,” said South Pasadena resident Anne Bagasao. “It was a life too short, but one that is an everlasting gift to those who knew her and loved her and to the rest of us who were blessed with her talent and smile.
“She was unwavering in her persistence to rise above,” Bagasao continued. “I see her as a mini superhero. She always seemed to find a way to beat the odds simply by virtue of her own sheer will and honesty.”
Bagasao noted that someone involved with Marquez’s former residence had been removing flowers and tributes left on city property outside the home to commemorate her life. She said that the city had confirmed it was not involved. She and friends of Marquez had taken to protecting the mementos in shifts overnight, after the removal had occurred several times.
“Those in this building behind us where Vanessa perished can remove the flowers and the signs or whatever other memories that we leave behind, but they cannot remove her presence from our hearts and this world,” said Bagasao.
Los Angeles resident Minerva Garcia, a friend and co-worker of Marquez, has been a continual advocate for more answers in the case since the beginning.
“We’re here to commemorate the death of Vanessa Marquez, here at her home at the hands of the South Pasadena Police Department,” said Garcia. “One year later, we are no closer to getting answers.
“We are asking, we are demanding, to know what happened in that hour and a half that the SPPD was in Vanessa’s apartment along with a mental health clinician, according to the news reports. What happened in that hour and a half? Why, in their investigation, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department concluded their investigation so rapidly as of April 2019?”
Garcia noted that the city previously expressed confidence that the officers acted appropriately.
“If they’re so confident in what went down, why don’t we have any answers as of this date?” asked Garcia. “Where is the body cam footage?”
Garcia said she feared that the shooting was an “overreaction” by the SPPD. With Marquez being 86 pounds at the time of her death and disabled with multiple illnesses, Garcia questioned the police report that Marquez gained the energy, after they found her in a seizure, to point a gun at officers, then follow them once they exited.
“She used a walker, she used a wheelchair and then for her all of a sudden to become Rambo, it doesn’t connect for me,” said Garcia.
“I’m disheartened but not surprised,” continued Garcia when asked how she felt of the investigation’s timeline so far. “We know in this country how people of color are treated regarding police brutality.”
Bagasao shared she maintains relationships within the SPPD and thought that the department has overall been “doing a good job” with many other cases. She didn’t want to see the same incident happen again to someone disabled or having a mental crisis.
“I don’t want this to appear that I’m feeling that they did anything malicious because that is not the case,” said Bagasao. “However, for the sake of our community, we need to have some more transparency.”