A group coalesced outside of the Metro Gold Line Station on Sunday to observe the third anniversary of the fatal shooting of actress Vanessa Marquez by South Pasadena police officers who were responding to a mental health crisis at her apartment in 2018.
Thirty to 40 observers gathered at the so-called “angelversary” on Sunday at the downtown location, where speakers and friends of Marquez memorialized the actress and called on supporters to push for law enforcement reform and stronger accountability practices. The group also recognized others who have been killed during police responses, evoking a feature of protests that followed the murder of George Floyd by an officer in Minneapolis last year.
Participating organizations included the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, Say Their Names L.A., Centro CSO, American Indian Movement and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.
“Vanessa, along with the many others who died by irresponsible police gunfire, will be remembered. Together, we will point to the large numbers of Latinos who have been killed by police historically and the scores of deaths swept under the rug that have been ignored and unquestioned,” said Minerva Garcia, a friend of Marquez, in a statement. “There are scores of incidents that never make headlines, of people who needed assistance but not the kind of help offered by confrontational police. Calling the police in disadvantaged communities or on people of color too often has a deadly outcome.”
Marquez was killed after officers conducted a wellness check at her South Pasadena apartment. The actress had suffered from a number of autoimmune diseases and had previously sought help from support systems for her mental health issues — at the time of the response, the South Pasadena Police Department said she’d experienced numerous seizures and had not eaten in days. As police and other first responders decided to detain her for a mental health hold, Marquez brandished a BB gun that resembled a handgun, causing the responders to withdraw and set up a defensive formation.
As Marquez — who had been living in hoarding conditions and had lost a substantial amount of weight — left her apartment and descended the stairs, she appeared to point the imitation gun at police officers, prompting two to shoot in response. She died from those wounds.
Subsequent reviews by the department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office ruled that the shooting was lawful and police acted in self-defense. A civil lawsuit filed against the city by Marquez’s mother resulted in a $450,000 settlement paid by the city’s liability insurance last year. As South Pasadena residents joined other protesters last year, they cited this and other incidents to underscore why they were calling for reforms at the SPPD.
“Vanessa needed help, not a spray of fatal police bullets. She was sick. She could barely walk or see and weighed only 89 pounds,” Garcia added in her statement. “The Sheriff’s Department [which investigated the case] may have vindicated the officer that killed her, but this further causes us to question the process of police reviewing police and the city policies of South Pasadena and Los Angeles.”