Jurors on Wednesday found that a Long Beach police officer’s negligence caused the death of 23-year-old Cesar Rodriguez, who was hit by an oncoming train after a struggle with the officer at a Blue Line station in Long Beach in 2017.
The ruling in the long-running civil case means the trial will move into its next phase, where jurors will have to weigh how much Rodriguez’s family is owed in damages.
To that end, Rodriguez’s loved ones gave emotional testimony Thursday about the suffering they’ve endured because of Rodriguez’s death.
His mother, Rosa Moreno, wore a locket filled with some of Rodriguez’s ashes as she described the anguish she’s felt since her son died.
“Since he was a kid, he would never leave my side… hugging and kissing me,” she said.
Rodriguez died after an incident on Aug. 29, 2017, when police officers on a northbound Metro Blue Line train stopped him for fare evasion.
When Rodriguez and the officers eventually got off the train at the Wardlow Road station, authorities say Rodriguez gave them a false identification. The officers said they then searched Rodriguez and found drugs on him.
Police say that Rodriguez’s attempt to flee sent him and the officer tumbling onto the platform, a narrative his family disagrees with.
Footage of the incident shows the officer and Rodriguez falling to the platform, leaving Rodriguez’s legs hanging over the tracks.
An investigation by the District Attorney’s Office cleared the officer involved in the struggle of any criminal wrongdoing.
But Rodriguez’s family proceeded with a civil lawsuit, claiming the officer employed negligent tactics that caused his death, and as a result, Moreno has been deprived of the lifelong comfort, support and care of her son.
In court Thursday, Moreno recalled how she and Rodriguez often laughed and danced together, what his favorite foods were, and how—when he died—she’d wait for everyone in the house to go to bed so she could bring his ashes into bed with her.
It was the only thing that brought her comfort, she said.
“He was my only son, my treasure, my everything,” Moreno said. “Around him, I was the happiest mom in the world.”
Arnoldo Casillas, the attorney representing Rodriguez’s estate argued that Rodriguez’s mother, Rosa Moreno, deserves $20 million for the burden, harm and suffering brought on by her son’s death.
”That loss was caused by negligence,” Casillas said. “That debt has to be paid.”