Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has filed a murder charge against a former Long Beach Unified school safety officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Mona Rodriguez last month near Millikan High School.
The safety officer, Eddie F. Gonzalez, 51, could not immediately be reached for comment; he is in custody at the Long Beach Jail on $2 million bail. It’s unclear whether he has retained an attorney.
The safety officer, who was fired by the Long Beach Unified School District following the Sept. 27 shooting, will be arraigned on Friday.
In a news conference announcing the charge on Wednesday in Los Angeles, Gascón said this case highlights the importance of holding public safety officers accountable.
“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,” the district attorney said.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said the shooting “really impacted our community heavily. This is a step in trying to bring some closure to this very unfortunate and impactful incident.”
Rodriguez was sitting in the passenger seat of a gray sedan when she was shot in the head by Gonzalez on the afternoon Sept. 27.
Police said Gonzalez had helped to break up a fight between Rodriguez and a 15-year-old girl near campus when Rodriguez fled with her boyfriend, Rafeul Chowdhury, and his 16-year-old brother, who were also allegedly involved in the fight. Police said Rodriguez initiated the confrontation with the girl, whom she knew.
Police said Gonzalez fired as the trio tried to flee the scene in a sedan, with at least one shot hitting Rodriguez.
Videos posted on social media show the school safety officer walking up to a gray sedan that was stopped in the driveway of a shopping center near campus. The officer can be seen standing by the car’s passenger-side front window when it lurches forward, tires squealing.
Gascón said Wednesday the case is complex because there are many witnesses and the video of the incident only tells part of the story. At this point the only person being charged is the school safety officer, the DA said.
Rodriguez, who has a 6-month-old son with Chowdhury, was taken off life support on Oct. 5 after her organs were donated to save the lives of five people, her family said.
Rodriguez’ brother, Oscar Rodriguez, said the murder charge announced Wednesday is the “first step for justice and hopefully our healing process.”
“My sister was amazing,” he said. “She was a person to help me out in my times of troubles as a young child. She was there for me, and now that she’s gone I don’t know how to heal.”
He says his family is still in shock and the murder charge shouldn’t have taken a month.
“This type of criminal action should not be allowed in our state, in our country,” Oscar Rodriguez said.
Oscar Rodriguez, the brother of Mona Rodriguez, says the murder charge against school safety officer Eddie Gonzalez is the “first step for justice and hopefully our healing process.” pic.twitter.com/CBnWgSuPUE
— Kelly Puente (@KellyPuenteTN) October 27, 2021
Gonzalez’s tactics drew public outcry and sharp criticism from law enforcement experts, and the Long Beach Unified School Board on Oct. 6 subsequently fired Gonzalez, stating that there were clear “areas where the employee violated district policy.”
“We send our sincerest condolences to everyone who has been impacted by this terrible event, especially Manuela [Mona] Rodriguez’s family and friends,” Superintendent Jill Baker said in a news conference at the time.
Gascón has been more aggressive than his predecessors in charging law enforcement officials accused of wrongdoing.
In August, he charged a Torrance police officer with excessive force for allegedly continuing to shoot at a knife-wielding man as he walked away from officers. It was only the third time in two decades that an L.A. County law enforcement officer had been charged with a crime for shooting someone, according to LAist.
And earlier this month, Gascón also charged a Baldwin Park police officer with assault based on accusations that he kicked a 16-year-old during an arrest and continued to assault him as he was placed into the back seat of a squad car.
School safety officers are not full-fledged peace officers like those employed by police departments, but they do carry guns. Unlike police officers, they do not investigate crimes or have the power to arrest people. The school district’s policy governing when its safety officers are allowed to use deadly force bars them from firing at moving vehicles or fleeing suspects.
Gonzalez had been with the district for less than a year before the incident.
Records show he previously served short stints as a police officer in the cities of Los Alamitos and Sierra Madre before he joined Long Beach Unified on Jan. 10, 2021. The school district has said there was nothing in Gonzalez’s employment record that disqualified him from the job.
Staff writer Jeremiah Dobruck contributed to this report.