A former Long Beach Unified School District safety officer who fatally shot an 18-year-old woman who was sitting inside a moving car was charged Wednesday with murder.
“It’s an unfortunate, unnecessary death that left a 6-month-old without a mother, a family without a daughter, and clearly a tremendous loss to our entire community,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said while announcing the murder charge at a downtown news conference.
Eddie Gonzalez, 51, the former safety officer who was fired by the LBUSD about a week after shooting Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez in the head Sept. 27, is expected to be arraigned Friday. He was arrested Wednesday in the city of Orange.
Rodriguez was shot near Spring Street and Palo Verde Avenue, near Millikan High School, and was on life support until Oct. 5, when her family’s lawyer said her organs were donated, saving the lives of five people.
The young woman, who was the mother of an infant son, was in the front passenger seat of a car that was being driven away from the scene of an altercation when the shooting occurred shortly after 3 p.m. Sept. 27.
Long Beach police responding to the scene found the woman with at least one gunshot wound.
According to police, the school safety officer was driving in the area when he observed Rodriguez involved in an altercation with a 15-year-old girl in the street. Investigators determined that a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy were also involved in the dispute.
When Rodriguez, the man and the boy attempted to leave the scene in a vehicle, the school safety officer approached the car and fired into the vehicle as the driver was pulling away, striking her inside, authorities said.
Video of the shooting posted online appears to show the officer firing at least two shots at the car.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna told reporters Wednesday the highly publicized shooting “really impacted our community heavily.”
“So this is just a step in trying to bring some closure to this very unfortunate and impactful incident, not only to our city, but to the family, the Rodriguez family,” he said.
Rodriguez’s family members and their attorneys were planning to hold a news conference later Wednesday afternoon to respond to the murder charge being filed. On Oct. 5, Rodriguez’s brothers joined the family’s attorneys in calling on Gascón to file a criminal case against the officer.
“We’re here today because we want justice for my sister. We want the killer to go to jail. We want a prosecution to occur,” Mona Rodriguez’s oldest brother, Iran Rodriguez, told reporters outside Gascón’s downtown L.A. office that day.
“And we want my sister to rest in peace knowing that her killer is behind bars.”
In a letter sent to Gascón, an attorney for the woman’s family wrote that “various videos of the incident were captured by bystanders showing Officer Gonzalez taking reckless action when he shot into a moving vehicle and gravely injured” the woman.
“This officer had no justification to use deadly force against Ms. Rodriguez because Ms. Rodriguez did not pose an imminent threat to the officer when she was shot by the officer,” attorney Luis A. Carrillo wrote in the letter to Gascón.
“The actions of this officer constitute a serious violation of state and federal constitutional rights. The unjustified use of deadly force by this officer also meet the threshold for criminal charges against the officer for murder or for manslaughter.”
On Oct. 6, the school district announced that Gonzalez had violated district policies on use of force and was fired.
“After our internal review, we clearly saw areas where the employee violated district policy and did not meet our standards and expectations,” LBUSD Superintendent Jill Baker said.
“We believe the decision to terminate this officer’s employment is warranted, justified and quite frankly, the right thing to do.
“The use-of-force policy used by our school safety office states officers shall not fire at a fleeing person, shall not fire at a moving vehicle and shall not fire through a vehicle window unless circumstances clearly warrant the use of a firearm as a final means of defense. Again, based on our review, we believe our internal policy was violated.”
According to Luis Carrillo, Rodriguez’s heart, lungs, liver and both kidneys were harvested.