All day, into the night, people stopped by the house on Fremont Street in South Pasadena. Some people stood for a moment and moved on — others dropped off flowers and placed them around the large palm tree on city property that sits in front of what was the former home of actor Vanessa Marquez.
Some of those who came by knew her as a resident of the small town for the last 15 years. Others were friends and fellow actors who had worked with her. A few never met her but were fans who remembered her as “Nurse Wendy Goldman” on the show “ER,” or as a young actor in the iconic film “Stand and Deliver.”
On the sidewalk, Anne Bagasao, an ordained minister offered a prayer, lit sage and asked that the truth be revealed. She compared the actress to “Hermia” from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“Though she be but little, she is fierce,” said Bagasao, referencing the life of adversity that the actress faced and her will to survive.
It was one year ago, on Aug. 30, when Marquez was shot and killed by the local police. Over the last 12 months those closest to her have written letters, attended city council meetings and have pleaded for answers.
They’ve pointed to the many inconsistencies in information that has trickled into media reports. They want to know what “really happened” when police came to her apartment door last year, when what was said to be a “wellness check” became her last day on earth — she was shot dead by police gunfire.
“Where is the body cam footage?” asked Minerva Garcia. “If the police did nothing wrong, then release the tape.”
In a new development this week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that the South Pasadena police officers were in fact wearing body cameras, and they were turned on when the shooting occurred.
Lt. Brandon R. Dean told the South Pasadena News that the department has custody of the police body camera tapes, but they have not been released.
The Sheriff’s office has completed its investigation and its report now sits with the LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who is reportedly still reviewing the case.
There is no indication when the findings will be released. Garcia and others find the length of time they are forced to wait — and what has been reported — to be “unsettling.”
She said the police after the shooting, without benefit of a warrant, removed Marquez' laptop and cellphone. Her landlord had spackled and painted over the bullet holes the very next day.
Garcia said Marquez had confided in her that she was “afraid of her landlord,” who, with others from his office, were entering her apartment without notifying her, and she was nervous that they would open her door and walk in at any time — even when she slept.
On one Facebook post that has since been removed, Marquez indicated that she had purchased a replica gun to scare those who were coming into her apartment.
Garcia, a very close friend of Marquez, has taken issue with those who’ve been quick to say that Marquez was mentally ill.
“Yes, she was sick. She suffered from autoimmune diseases, but she wasn’t ‘crazy’ as some have been quick to say.”
Garcia points out that Marquez was so ill, she only weighed 89 pounds when police shot and killed her. Because of her illnesses, she couldn’t work and take care of herself properly. Her medical expenses were prohibitive, and any additional ambulance ride to the hospital would put her into greater debt.
There are various accounts of what occurred.
One account said police woke her from sleep, which caused her to scream. Another said she appeared to be having seizures when police saw her. Another said a police “ride along” was conveniently the same person who provided mental health counseling to her after she refused to go to the hospital.
“Why wouldn’t police call paramedics immediately if they saw her having a seizure?" Garcia asked. “Her eyesight was going, she had difficulty walking. She had a hard time getting from her bed to the bathroom. She used a walker and a wheelchair for mobility, It’s very difficult to believe some of the accounts that claimed Vanessa, who was so frail, chased police out of her apartment pointing a replica gun at them.”
All the more reason to provide the body cam recording, she said.
Garcia described her friend as anything but mentally ill and wants people to stop being so quick to judge her, most especially those who didn't know her or hadn’t seen her for many years.
“Vanessa was a loving decent human being that needed to be helped, not shot to death, and discarded as if her life didn't matter,” Garcia said.
“I want those who didn’t know her to learn about her contributions, not only as an actor who served the acting profession for over 20 years, but as a compassionate human being. She was a peaceful person who was opposed to violence.
“She protested the first Iraq War. She helped raise funds for Jaime Escalante, the teacher portrayed in the film she is most known for, ‘Stand and Deliver,’ for his cancer treatments and for his funeral. She joined Cesar Chavez in protests to call attention to the needs of farm workers. She espoused his teachings of non-violence until her death.
“They can’t brush this under the rug,” said Garcia. “They refuse to release the police report. The Sheriff’s investigation has been completed but we have been given no information. We don't want to be here next year asking the same questions, but we will if we have to.”