Vanessa Marquez

Those who knew actor Vanessa Marquez best stood next to attorney Vicki I. Sarmiento as she made the announcement: a 20 million dollar legal claim has been filed for damages against the City of Pasadena and the involved police officer(s) for the wrongful death of Marquez.

The claim is filed on behalf of Delia McElfresh, Vanessa’s mother.  

It was almost six months ago (Aug. 30), when Marquez was killed by South Pasadena police. Her friends and family said the city has rebuked all attempts to get more information about what happened when police came to the actor’s apartment door and awakened her from sleep. 

Accounts from sources who asked for anonymity indicated Marquez asked police to leave her apartment after they were called to make a “wellness check.”  But the “wellness check” ended tragically. 

Police said Marquez pulled out what looked like a real gun and they responded with gunfire. A neighbor commented that Marquez was so small and fragile that when her body was carried out, she looked to be the size of a child. Police said later the gun Marquez had wasn’t real. 

“We must have justice for Vanessa,” said Minerva Garcia, one of Vanessa’s closest friends and a fellow actor. “Vanessa earnestly stood up to exercise her right to privacy, but instead her life was cut short and her voice was silenced with bullets.”

Referencing Marquez’ break out role of her youth, Garcia said,  “Those of us here today ‘Stand Up and Deliver’ her voice for justice with ours. Even as a young girl she stood up against injustice.We ask SPPD and the city, ‘Why are you refusing to release information? What are you hiding?’”

What Is Known

Sarmiento said what their legal team does know so far is that Marquez was shot several times.

“Her death was the result of improper handling, poor tactics, overreaction, and excessive force by the police,” she said in a news release from her law office. 

“After the shooting, Vanessa’s laptop and cell phones were seized by a search warrant procured by a Los Angeles County detective. Despite requests for the return of Vanessa’s private property, these items have not been returned to her mother. A separate claim against the Los Angeles County will be filed in connection with the wrongful seizure of  Vanessa’s private property.

“The South Pasadena PD has yet to release the police report, autopsy report, or the police body camera video and audio recordings regarding this tragic incident,” the attorney’s news release stated. 

Marquez Had a Significant Career

While Marquez may be best known by mainstream audiences for her role as nurse Wendy Goldman on “ER” for three seasons (1994-97), and “Seinfeld,” Marquez’ trailblazing role in the iconic film “Stand and Deliver” is revered in the Latino community as a “classic.”

It was Marquez’ quiet yet effective performance and unique voice in this iconic film that was a powerful roar, and has served as inspiration to underprivileged youth and students for more than three decades. Marquez’ performance and subsequent work in film and the arts is viewed in the Latino community as trailblazing. 

“Stand and Deliver” was selected in 2011 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.” This achievement is due, of course, to all the talent involved. And Vanessa Marquez’s talent played an important role toward making this film a cultural treasure, especially during a time when the Chicano/Mexican American life experience was not expressed on the big screen. The lack of representation in film for US-born Latinos continues to be a challenge today.

Marquez’ acting career would break through those barrier in all mediums — film, television and theater. He appearance in the television show “ER” brought her more fame. 

Additional film credits include: “Under Suspicion,” “Blood In, Blood Out,” “Fire and Ice,” “All Lies End in Murder,” “Locked Up: A Mother’s Rage,” and “Night Children.” 

Marquez’ contributions to film went far beyond her personal career. Paula Guthat, via the TCM hashtag on Twitter, TCM Party credits Marquez for building and expanding the audience by sharing her extensive knowledge, appreciation and love for classic films as unique works of cinema.

“Vanessa’s warmth and sociability helped attract new people to our classic movie group. Ms. Marquez’ work as a film lover bolstered older films through the Turner Classic Movies twitter page, live tweeting and inviting a new generation of fans to enjoy screen gems of years past,” Guthat wrote.