Settlement reached in ‘ER’ actress Vanessa Marquez wrongful death lawsuit

The city of South Pasadena in California has reached a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of actress Vanessa Marquez more than two years after she was shot and killed by police at her home during a wellness check gone wrong when authorities claimed she brandished what officers believed to be a gun.

Marquez’s mother, Delia McElfresh, and South Pasadena mutually agreed to settle the case for $450,000, “in order to save the parties the costs associated with protracted litigation,” South Pasadena Mayor Diana Mahmud said in a statement.

The settlement comes after McElfresh filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court last summer against the city of South Pasadena as well as the city’s former chief of police and the officers involved, claiming that the police had caused the confrontation that resulted in Marquez’s death.

Marquez died on Aug. 20, 2018 after a friend called the South Pasadena Fire Department because Marquez was experiencing seizures, according to the suit.

“Even though the call was for medical assistance and specifically requested response by paramedics with the South Pasadena Fire Department, several fully armed police officers” from South Pasadena responded instead, the suit claims. One of the officers “falsely claimed Ms. Marquez pointed a gun at him and then at herself.”

Police later stated that Marquez had brandished a BB gun.

“Their armed presence, coupled with the attempted removal of Ms. Marquez from her home against her will, was a militaristic, menacing, and threatening response to a frail and visibly debilitated woman who was exercising her right to remain in her home,” the suit reads. “Ms. Marquez’s death was the result of overreaction, excessive use of force, and gross mishandling of the situation.”

All of the suit’s claims — which included unlawful entry, excessive force, violation of due process and unreasonable detention — will be dismissed with prejudice as part of the settlement.

The majority of the cost of the settlement and litigation will come from South Pasadena’s risk pool.

In March of 2020, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue criminal charges against two of the officers involved in the shooting, alleging that they believed Marquez posed an imminent threat to their safety.

Marquez is most remembered for her recurring role in the first three seasons of the TV series “ER” as nurse Wendy Goldman, as well as her role as Ana Delgado in the 1988 biographical drama film “Stand and Deliver.”