City officials have pledged to fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the officer-involved shooting of Vanessa Marquez, who died as a result of the incident. A broken window at the address. Photos by Steve Whitmore

As the investigation continues into the So Pas officer-involved shooting (OIS) that took a woman’s life, city officials have pledged their full cooperation, saying police acted appropriately in a volatile and dire situation.

“We believe our officers acted appropriately under a tragic set of circumstances,” said Stephanie DeWolfe, South Pasadena’s city manager. “We are asking the public to respect the investigative process and allow the Sheriff’s Department and D.A.’s office to gather and release the facts.”

The investigation, which could take up to several months to complete, is being handled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau as well as the Justice System Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney Office. The SPPD also is fully assisting in the probe.

“This is a bifurcated investigation,” Sheriff’s Homicide Lt. Joe Mendoza, the lead investigator, said during an earlier telephone interview. “We will gather all the facts and when we are done, we will present that to the District Attorney’s Office.” At which time, the DA will issue a letter of opinion that will indicate the shooting was justified or unjustified. That letter is given to homicide, which in turn gives it to the SPPD. The process could take anywhere from 6 months to a year, Mendoza said.

Vanessa Marquez

The woman that died in the OIS a week-ago Thursday, Aug. 30, is 49-year-old So Pas resident and actress Vanessa Marquez. The incident occurred at about 1:48 p.m. at 1133 Fremont Avenue. No officers were injured during the incident.

Marquez was an actress, most notably with roles on “ER” and “Stand and Deliver.”

The incident started out as a welfare check on a woman that was believed to be having medical and mental challenges, according to police.

“Officers from South Pasadena Police Department were in an apartment complex at the location conducting a welfare check for a female resident who was possibly suffering from a medical condition,” a statement released by Mendoza reads.  “When officers arrived at approximately 12:00 p.m., they noticed the female was having seizures. They requested fire department paramedics to respond and assist with her medical needs.”

Mendoza goes on to say in the prepared statement that the woman became uncooperative during the welfare check.

“While speaking to her, officers became aware she was possibly suffering from mental health issues, became uncooperative, and appeared to be unable to care for herself,” said Mendoza. “A Los Angeles County Mental Health Clinician was on scene with officers from South Pasadena PD. They continued to speak to her for over an hour and a half in an attempt to offer her medical care.

Police also said the health clinician just happened to be riding with the So Pas police the day of the incident. Initially, two officers responded to the situation and as Marquez’s behavior allegedly became more unpredictable and problematic, they called in a third officer with the health clinician.

Marquez then armed herself with what looked like a handgun and pointed it at the officers, at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred, Mendoza said.

Marquez was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead, according to Mendoza’s statement.

The officers were wearing body worn cameras, but Mendoza said investigators are not releasing any video of the incident at this time.

The weapon turned out to be a BB gun that was a replica of a semi-automatic handgun, according to Mendoza.

“It has the appearance of a real gun,” Mendoza said during a telephone interview Friday morning. “It didn’t have the orange tip that is usually found on these guns. This looked like a real gun and then she pointed it at the officers.” 

Officer-involved shootings have occurred in South Pasadena but are considered rare, according to Acting Police Chief Brian Solinsky, who has been with the department for the last 25 years. The last officer-involved shooting in So Pas was in 2016, according to Solinsky. In 2017, there was an office-involved shooting with So Pas police in Burbank.

“We’ve had a few of these over the last few years,” Solinsky said Thursday evening. “Everyone pulled together and did their jobs professionally. I am proud of the organization and the men and women who serve South Pasadena.”

All the officers involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave per department policy, Solinsky said.

Television news crews swarmed the residence at 1133 Fremont Ave. Aug. 30, where the OIS occurred. Photo by Steve Whitmore

So Pas City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe agreed with the acting chief and also said the city is going to fully cooperate with the investigations.

“We look forward to hearing the results of the investigation,” De Wolfe said in a prepared statement released over the weekend. “In the meantime, we are asking the public to be patient and wait until the facts of the case are confirmed before making judgements about the incident.”

DeWolfe summed up the incident that has rocked this quiet community.

“It is very unfortunate and sad that the August 30 incident involving one of our residents, Vanessa Marquez, ended tragically with the loss of her life. Our officers, along with a mental health professional, made every attempt to resolve the situation peacefully before the use of deadly force became necessary. We are a small, close-knit community and these types of incidents are very rare. Our thoughts are with her family, friends, colleagues and fans during this difficult time.”

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. If you prefer to provide information anonymously, you may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477).

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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