A federal judge has formally approved a settlement in a wrongful death suit filed by the mother of an “ER” actress who was fatally shot by police who were sent to her South Pasadena home in 2018 to conduct a wellness check, court papers show.
Vanessa Marquez’s mother, Delia McElfresh, filed suit last August in Los Angeles federal court against the city of South Pasadena, its former police chief and other officers, disputing law enforcement’s assertion that the 49-year-old actress was shot when she brandished what officers believed to be a gun.
South Pasadena City Attorney Theresa Highsmith said the parties agreed to a $450,000 settlement, most of which will come from the city’s litigation risk pool. A federal judge last week permanently dismissed the case.
“Any loss of life is tragic,” South Pasadena Mayor Diana Mahmud said in a prepared statement regarding the settlement.
The federal suit sought unspecified damages, but a claim filed against the city in 2019 as a precursor to a lawsuit initially filed in Superior Court last June sought $20 million in damages, alleging wrongful death, battery and other violations.
Marquez, best known for her roles as a nurse in the NBC medical drama “ER,” had a history of seizures. McElfresh contended 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,” according to the suit.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office concluded that the officers acted in self-defense, saying Marquez pointed what appeared to be a handgun at them after they responded to her residence on an emergency medical call.
The weapon turned out to be a BB-type gun that resembled a semi-automatic handgun.
“She was suffering from some problems, (an) eating disorder,” Sgt. Joe Mendoza of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told reporters at the scene. “When they (officers) arrived, she was suffering a seizure.”
Sheriff’s officials who assisted with the investigation said a county mental health clinician was with South Pasadena officers at the scene, and they spoke with Marquez “for over an hour and a half in an attempt to offer her medical care. She then armed herself with a handgun and pointed it at the officers, at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred.”
In addition to her role as nurse Wendy Goldman on “ER” from 1994-97, Marquez appeared in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver” and had guest roles on the TV series “Seinfeld,” “Melrose Place” “Nurses” and “Wiseguy.”
She made headlines in 2017 when she took to Twitter to accuse former “ER” star George Clooney of blacklisting her from the show for speaking out about harassment on the set.
“Women who don’t play the game lose career. I did,” she wrote. She alleged she was racially and sexually harassed on the set.
Clooney denied having her barred from the show, telling E! News he “had no idea Vanessa was blacklisted.”