An “Angelversary” march and rally was held Sunday, Aug. 30, to “never forget” the tragic killing of actor Vanessa Marquez by South Pasadena police, and also acknowledge other families in similar circumstances.
Mothers who’ve lost their own loved ones at the hands of the police joined the march, which began in front of the actor’s home on Fremont Avenue and continued to the small town’s city hall near the police station.
The march marked the day, two years ago, when South Pasadena police arrived at Marquez’ apartment for a wellness check and entered her apartment while she was sleeping.
The actor woke up and screamed at seeing them and became distraught, wanted the police to leave. She refused to go to the hospital and, according to police reports, the incident ended with Marquez grabbing a BB gun and South Pasadena police running out of her apartment. Although police had exited her apartment, police shot and killed her as Marquez reportedly held the BB gun at the threshold of her doorway.
Minerva Garcia, the march organizer and a close friend of Marquez, has been strident in holding public protests, questioning the police accounts during the city’s council meetings.
On Sunday she led the march dressed as Princess Leia from the “Star Wars” movies, but not before nailing a poster of the late actor on a tree in front of the house.
“No one better touch it,” she said referencing the previous removal of flowers and makeshift memorials left at the spot.
“There wasn’t a bigger Star Wars fan than Vanessa,” her friends remembered, adding how much she loved Princess Leia who was dedicated to ending the tyranny of the empire and fearless on the battlefield.
“Vanessa was always an advocate for the underdog and justice and on this day, her attempt to stand up for herself was met with gunfire,” Garcia said.
“The Sheriff’s Department has a crisis team that could have been called. They are headquartered only a mile away from her apartment, they could have helped her.”
Garcia questioned the department’s claims that police responding to the call happened to have a “ride along” who was qualified to provide appropriate intervention.
“Police haven’t identified this person or her qualifications,” she said. “Vanessa was only 84 pounds and suffered from Celiac disease; she was very sick, she was frail and needed a walker. Her eyesight was going. She needed help and support, but instead South Pasadena police ended her life.”
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office determined the two officers involved in the shooting of the 49-year-old actress acted in self-defense. It also released body-cam footage, which was slowed, and a superimposed showing of what looks to be a handgun pointed at the officers but was later determined to be a BB gun.
Last week, a federal lawsuit was filed against the City of South Pasadena and its police department. The suit contends that South Pasadena police officers disregarded the paramedics’ decision that Marquez had a right to refuse to be taken to the hospital, and instead created a confrontation that led to her death.
The suit, which names ex-South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller among the defendants, disputes the assertion made by police that Marquez was shot when she brandished what officers believed to be a real gun.
Marquez, known for her roles in the NBC medical drama “ER,” and the iconic film, “Stand and Deliver,” had a history of seizures. Her mother, Delia McElfesh, contends that her daughter was shot “when she was not facing the officers, when the officers were a safe distance away from her, and when there was no imminent threat of serious injury or death to the officers or others.”
“The families attending this Angelversary are also asking to be heard,” said Garcia. “Every day we live with a huge void and frustration because we haven’t received justice. It’s tremendous pain and an immeasurable loss to our families, our friends, our communities and the work they contributed to — we cannot go quietly away. We will continue to stand up and speak out.”