A judge refused today to dismiss a murder count against a former Long Beach Unified School District safety officer charged in the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old woman near Millikan High School last fall.
Superior Court Judge Richard Goul, who reviewed a video of the shooting, said he found no legal error in a Jan. 19 ruling by another judge who found there was sufficient evidence to allow the case against Eddie Gonzalez, 52, to proceed to trial.
He noted that the case will proceed to trial before a jury that would have the prerogative to come to a different interpretation of the facts.
Goul also rejected the defense’s motion to reduce bail from $2 million to $100,000.
The former school safety officer has remained behind bars since he was arrested Oct. 27 by Long Beach Police Department detectives in Orange.
Gonzalez, who was fired by the district about a week after shooting Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez in the head on Sept. 27 as she sat inside a moving car, was charged a month later with her killing.
At the Jan. 19 hearing in which Gonzalez was ordered to stand trial, Superior Court Judge Daniel Lowenthal rejected defense attorney Michael Schwartz’s request to reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter or to lower Gonzalez’s bail, citing “the senselessness of this act.”
At the end of the nearly daylong preliminary hearing in January, Lowenthal said it was “simply a tragic and heartbreaking case” primarily for the family and friends of Rodriguez, but also to the community of nearby Millikan High School and the family and friends of the defendant, whom he said “didn’t set out to kill someone on that day.”
The judge said there was “no evidence at any point, though, that he (Gonzalez) actually was afraid of the car” and “didn’t dive away from the car” as it moved, despite the defendant’s statement to a Long Beach police detective soon afterward that he had feared that the vehicle was going to strike him after he ordered the vehicle’s occupants to stop near Spring Street and Palo Verde Avenue.
Lowenthal called a video of the shooting “very clear” and “powerful.”
Gonzalez, who relayed that he wanted to be a “positive influence” for school children, told police shortly after the shooting that he had come upon a fight in the street between Rodriguez and a female Millikan student and that he asked the two to sit down after breaking up the altercation but that Rodriguez fled to the nearby car, LBPD Detective Donald Collier testified at the hearing in January.
“He said, ‘Why did he have to try to run me over?’” the detective said of his interview with Gonzalez shortly after the shooting. “He stated he was not struck by the car.”