Thursday, July 30, 2020
Justice for Vanessa Marquez
It was on March 2 2020 that the Los Angles District Attorney's Office released their report on Vanessa Marquez's death in which it was concluded that the officers acted in self defence. To say that I have serious issues with that report would be an understatement. It was on June 24 2020 that a Complaint for Damages was filed with the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Central District on June 24, 2020 on behalf of Vanessa's mother. The complaint has brought to light further facts regarding Vanessa Marquez's death and sheds further doubt in my mind that the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office's report was fair or unbiased.
To begin with, I have to question why armed police officers were sent to Vanessa Marquez's apartment. On August 30 2018 I called Vanessa and when I didn't receive an answer I texted her, thinking she could answer when she wanted. Vanessa texted right back and she asked me to call the paramedics as she was having severe seizures. I then called the paramedics at 11:48 AM Pacific Time. In the Los Angeles District Attorney Office's report it claims that a woman from Alabama. who identified herself as a friend of Vanessa Marquez, called the paramedics and said that Vanessa was "not acting right." It has since come to my attention that apparently they were confused and this "woman from Alabama" is actually me. Now I don't think my voice sounds the least bit feminine and, given the fact that I had to give them my home address (which is in Missouri), I don't understand how they could get that I am from Alabama, but what upsets me is that at no point did I say that Vanessa was "not acting right." I stated in no uncertain terms that Vanessa was having severe seizures and asked that they send paramedics over to give her medical assistance. I did not ask for police officers to perform "a wellness check." I would have protested if I had known that they would send police.
It is for that reason that I want to stress that at no point was I connected to the South Pasadena Police Department and at no point did I ever speak to a police officer. Despite the fact that I had asked for paramedics to be sent to Vanessa Marquez's apartment, my call was apparently referred to the South Pasadena Police Department. According to the Los Angeles District Attorney Office's report, the officers arrived at 11:49 AM Pacific Time. I find this curious as I had made my call at 11:48 AM Pacific Time. I can only guess one of two things. Either someone called before I did and that call has yet to be acknowledged by the City of South Pasadena, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, or the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, or their timeline is wrong. Anyway, you can see from this screenshot from my phone's call log exactly when I called (the times here are in Central Time). For obvious reasons, I have blurred my bank's name.
If someone else had not called before me, not only do I have to question when the police officers arrived at Vanessa Marquez's door, but why they were sent there at all. I stated that she was having severe seizures and I asked that they send paramedics. Given Vanessa was having a medical emergency, it seems fairly obvious to me that she needed paramedics, not cops. Obviously paramedics have training to deal with medical emergencies, whereas the average police officer does not. Even if I had asked for a welfare check to be made on Vanessa, it would have made more sense to have sent paramedics than police officers. Indeed, I believe that if paramedics had initially been sent to Vanessa Marquez's apartment instead of police officers, she might still be alive today.
Here I must digress and discuss Vanessa's mental state at the time of her death. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office's report on the death of Vanessa Marquez seems written so as to give the impression that she was suicidal. Let me say this as adamantly as I possibly can--Vanessa was not suicidal. In our last conversation Vanessa and I discussed an X-Files marathon that BBC America was holding in conjunction with that show's 25th anniversary, a John Williams concert that was being held in Los Angeles County, and the day that I could one day visit her. With another friend she discussed a sale at Sephora that weekend. People who are suicidal do not discuss the future, because as far as they are concerned they do not have a future. Vanessa was still very much enthusiastic about life and still maintained her sunny disposition, despite having been ill much of the summer of 2018. Vanessa had refractory coeliac disease and regularly had seizures, among other medical problems, yet she was cheerful more often than not.
As further proof of the police officers' unprofessional conduct, they remained in the apartment even after Vanessa Marquez had declined to be taken to the hospital, as is her right under California law. They did this even after a paramedic had informed Vanessa that it was her right to refuse medical treatment. The moment that Vanessa declined to be taken to the hospital, the police officers were then obligated to leave. That they remained shows to me that their conduct was not only unprofessional and inappropriate, but in violation of California law.
As if the police officers remaining in Vanessa Marquez's apartment after she refused to be taken to the hospital was not bad enough, apparently someone at the South Pasadena Police Department, who was not present in her apartment and had not even spoken to her, placed Vanessa on a 5150 hold. For those of you wondering what a 5150 hold is, it refers to Statute 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code whereby a peace officer or other professional so designated under the law can involuntarily place someone in a mental institution for 72 hours for evaluation and treatment if they believe that person to be a danger to themselves or others. The person placing an individual under a 5150 hold must have spoken to the individual in person and at length. This means that the 5150 hold placed upon Vanessa Marquez was entirely unlawful, as it was applied by someone who had not spoken to her in person and was not even in her apartment at the time. Furthermore, the 5150 hold was unlawful because Vanessa was not a threat to herself nor anyone else. I would be willing to swear to that under oath in a court of law.
As if the police officers remaining after Vanessa Marquez refused to be taken to the hospital and the unlawful 5150 were not enough, it seems to me that the police officers showed little interest in de-escalating the situation. According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office's report, Vanessa informed two of the police officers that in her last stay at the hospital she had been sexually assaulted. While the report does not say so, it seems to me that the officers must have dismissed her claim. Knowing Vanessa as I did, I have no doubt that Vanessa's claim was true. Earlier in the summer she had gone to the hospital to be treated for heatstroke. Her experience was such that afterwards she refused to go to the hospital, even after I begged her to go to the hospital if she ever had another instance of heatstroke. While Vanessa never told me that she had been sexually assaulted, it would explain why she did not want to go to the hospital. That the police officers present in her apartment that day apparently did not seem to take her claim of being sexually assaulted seriously shows to me that they had little concern in de-escalating the situation.
According to the Complaint for Damages filed on June 24 2020, Gilberto Carrillo falsely claimed that Vanessa pointed a BB gun at the officers and used that as a pretext to open fire on her. I find it notable that in the Los Angles District Attorney Office's report on Vanessa Marquez's death that while other individuals present in Vanessa's apartment that day heard Carrillo yell, "Gun! Gun! Gun!, " Carrillo is the only person who claims to have actually seen Vanessa point a gun. As far as I am concerned, if Carrillo's claim that Vanessa pointed a BB gun at officers is indeed false, not only does it bring the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office's claim that the officers acted in self defence into question, but every single thing that Carrillo has said regarding Vanessa Marquez's death. Curiously, in the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office's report, Carrillo also claimed that Vanessa told him that she was having suicidal ideation, a claim that no one else made, not even the paramedics or the mental health professional present that day (whom one would think would be the most likely people Vanessa would have told if she was having suicidal thoughts, given they are medical professionals).
Not only do I find it impossible to believe that the officers acted in self defence, but I firmly believe that they used excessive force in dealing with Vanessa Marquez. Vanessa was only 5'3" and weighed all of 87 pounds at the time of her death. As near as I can tell, the officers shot fifteen times, six of those shots going into Vanessa and nine of them into the wall. I seriously have to question why the officers saw fit to fire so many times at a petite, disabled, non-threatening woman. Of course, for that matter, if the officers truly felt threatened by Vanessa, then why did they not use non-lethal measures to deal with her? Today's police officers have access to more non-lethal weapons than ever before. They could have used pepper spray. They could have used a Taser. They could have used BolaWrap. Now many of these non-lethal alternatives could have seriously injured Vanessa or may have even killed her, but they would have shown that the police officers were trying to preserve Vanessa's life. As it is, it looks to me as if the officers had absolutely no concern for Vanessa's life, that they were intent on killing her.
Here I want to say that even if the police officers present in Vanessa' Marquez's apartment that day felt threatened by her, that is insufficient reason for them to have opened fire on her. Quite simply, being "scared out of one's mind" is not sufficient reason to shoot someone. If a civilian shot someone and used the excuse that they were "scared out of their mind," that civilian would find themselves arrested and charged with murder. Given they should have the training to deal with such situations, police officers should be held to a higher standard than civilians. "I was scared out of my mind" is not sufficient grounds for a police officer to even draw their weapon, let alone fire upon someone with it.
This brings me to a Facebook post that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's report claims Vanessa Marquez made that I do not believe that she in fact did. The report claims that at 1:48 PM Pacific time, right before the officer involved shooting began, Vanessa posted, "there shooting me pour ashes over Hollywood sign." Now on Facebook I had it set so that I received a notification any time Vanessa posted. I also have to point out that on the afternoon of August 30, 2018 I was frequently checking Vanessa's Facebook profile as I was worried about her. Somehow I never saw this alleged post. Furthermore, none of Vanessa's other friends I have talked to remember seeing this post either. It is not now nor has it ever been visible on Vanessa's profile. Now it seems very unlikely that any of Vanessa's other friends or I would not have seen this post. Furthermore, I find the post's grammar rather curious. Even under duress I am convinced Vanessa would have written the correct, "They're shooting me" and not "there shooting me."
Ever since her death, I have written a great deal about Vanessa Marquez. It is no secret that Vanessa and I were very close, and that I have very strong feelings for her. She was both my dearest friend and a woman I adore. For that reason there may be those that would argue that I am so consumed by grief and anger that I cannot see things clearly. That having been said, I think the evidence of misconduct on the part of the City of South Pasadena and the police officers present in Vanessa's apartment is so great that anyone can see.
Indeed, it seems very clear to me that the City of South Pasadena and the South Pasadena Police Department showed very little concern for the life of Vanessa Marquez. When I called and asked for paramedics to be sent to Vanessa's apartment because she was having seizures, they sent police officers instead, individuals who are not qualified to deal with a medical emergency. Once there it appears that those police officers showed little concern for Vanessa's life and made no real effort to de-escalate the situation. Sadly, one of those officers decided to yell "Gun! Gun! Gun!" and fire upon Vanessa, after which another officer fired upon her as well. They killed Vanessa Marquez by shooting her in the back. In sending police officers instead of paramedics to respond to a medical emergency and afterwards taking no responsibility for those officers' actions, the City of South Pasadena should be held accountable. As for the officers who killed her, it is my firm belief that Gilberto Carrillo and Christopher Perez belong in prison. It is my firm belief that they did not act in self defence.