The mother of an “ER” actress shot to death at her home during a confrontation with South Pasadena police in 2018 sued the city, its former chief of police and several officers late Thursday in federal court, alleging civil rights violations.
Vanessa Marquez, 49, lived in South Pasadena on Aug. 30, 2018, when a friend asked paramedics to check on her, according to Delia McElfresh’s Los Angeles federal court lawsuit.
The paramedics brought South Pasadena police officers, who 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 alleges.
The suit, which names ex-South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller among the defendants, disputes law enforcement’s assertion that Marquez was shot when she brandished what officers believed to be a gun.
South Pasadena City Attorney Theresa Highsmith could not be immediately reached for comment.
Marquez, known for her roles in the NBC medical drama “ER” and the movie “Stand and Deliver,” had a history of seizures. McElfresh 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,” according to the suit.
“Ms. Marquez’s death was the result of overreaction, excessive use of force, and gross mishandling of the situation” by police, the lawsuit alleges.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, but a claim filed against the city in 2019 as a precursor to a lawsuit filed in June in Los Angeles Superior Court sought $20 million in damages, alleging wrongful death, battery and other violations.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office concluded that officers acted in self defense, saying Marquez pointed a handgun at them after they responded to her residence on an emergency medical call.
Sheriff’s deputies said that after the shooting officers checked the weapon and determined it was a BB-type gun that resembled a semi-automatic handgun.
“She was suffering from some problems, 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 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 also appeared in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver” and had guest roles on “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.”
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