A prosecutor told jurors Friday that a former Long Beach Unified School District safety officer tried to “play police officer” and made a series of bad decisions that led to the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old woman — while the man’s attorney argued that his client acted in self-defense out of fear that he was going to be run over by a car in which the woman was a passenger.

The Long Beach jury was handed the case late Friday morning against Eddie Gonzalez, who is charged with murder for the Sept. 27, 2021, shooting of Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez as she sat in the front passenger seat of an Infiniti being driven by her boyfriend in a parking lot near the intersection of Spring Street and Palo Verde Avenue in Long Beach.

The shooting was captured on video that was widely aired on local media.

Rodriguez died days later after being taken off life support.

Gonzalez, now 54, was charged about a month later with murder.

Jurors can also consider the lesser count of voluntary manslaughter if they acquit Gonzalez of second-degree murder, Superior Court Judge Richard M. Goul told the panel.

In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Lee Orquiola told jurors that Gonzalez “responded to youthful disobedience with deadly force” and “unjustifiably” fired two shots at the vehicle after an altercation between Rodriguez and a teenage female Millikan High School student about a block from the school’s campus.

The prosecutor said all that Gonzalez had to do that day was to get the vehicle’s license plate number and let “real police officers handle the situation,” but said he instead “escalated the situation with a series of bad decisions” and “unnecessarily fired two shots at the back of that fleeing vehicle.”

Gonzalez had moved out of the way of the vehicle and was “not in danger at all” of being struck by the vehicle when he fired the first shot, and “did not act in lawful self-defense,” according to the deputy district attorney, who told jurors that Gonzalez was “trying to kill the driver of that vehicle.”

Mona Rodriguez. Courtesy her family.

The prosecutor noted that a teenage high school student who shot one of the cell phone videos testified that the school safety officer was at the side of the car when he fired the first shot and at the back of the car when he fired the second shot.

Other bystanders — including a grandmother and her two grandchildren in a nearby vehicle in the parking lot — were fortunate that they didn’t get struck if the bullet had not hit Rodriguez, Orquiola said.

The prosecutor showed jurors the aftermath of the shooting, including a bullet hole in the vehicle’s rear passenger window and a police trajectory rod through the front passenger seat’s head rest, saying that it was “all because he tried to play police officer” and that “he’s not a police officer.”

Defense attorney Michael Schwartz urged jurors to acquit Gonzalez, telling the panel that “true justice” demands that verdict.

Gonzalez’s lawyer countered that the case is about what happened within about 1 1/2 seconds after the vehicle’s tires are heard screeching in a series of videos.

Oscar Rodriguez wipes tears after a press conference as the LBUSD has settled with the family of the death of Mona Rodriguez in Long Beach, Friday, April 4, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

He said the prosecution had to prove that his client formed the intent during that time to kill someone before firing the shots, telling jurors that it “isn’t about hindsight” or “slow motion.”

Schwartz said his client shot to “stop the threat of deadly force,” noting that two witnesses called by the defense testified that they believed Gonzalez was in danger of being struck by the vehicle if he had not moved out of the way. He said it doesn’t mean his client is guilty of anything if the “threat changed positions” before Gonzalez fired the shots.

“A tragedy took place, not a crime,” Schwartz told jurors. “It takes longer to say the words.”

He said the prosecution has to prove that the shooting was not done in self-defense, and said they “haven’t done it.”

During the trial, jurors repeatedly saw three videos, including a surveillance video and cell phone videos from two bystanders, in which the vehicle’s tires could be heard screeching before the two shots rang out.

Eddie F. Gonzalez, 51, appeared for arraignment in a Long Beach courtroom in 2021. He’s now free on bond. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File.

Rodriguez — who was in the vehicle with her boyfriend and his teenage brother — was struck in the head by one of the bullets, which entered the vehicle through the rear passenger window. Police also found a strike mark next to the rear passenger window’s door handle.

Gonzalez did not testify in his own defense.

Gonzalez — who is free on bond — was fired by the school district a week after the shooting.

Just over a year ago, Rodriguez’s family announced that they reached a $13 million settlement of their lawsuit against the school district in connection with her shooting death.

The lawsuit alleged that Gonzalez did not pass probation when he tried to be hired by the Los Alamitos and Sierra Madre police departments, but he was still hired by the LBUSD, which compounded matters by negligently training him.

The family’s attorneys also argued that Gonzalez violated district policy by shooting into a moving vehicle at a fleeing person.

“I personally don’t really care about the settlement. It’s not bringing back my sister,” Rodriguez’s brother, Omar, said last year. “I don’t want anybody else to go through this pain.”