The Long Beach school safety officer who fatally shot an 18-year-old woman last month is being charged with murder, officials announced Wednesday.
Eddie F. Gonzalez is charged with one count of murder for the death of Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said during a news conference.
Gonzalez shot Rodriguez on the afternoon of Sept. 27 in the area of Spring Street and Palo Verde Avenue, near Millikan High School. Rodriguez, a young mother, was placed on life support but died eight days after being shot.
Long Beach police said earlier this month that they opened a homicide investigation into her death.
According to the Long Beach Police Department’s preliminary investigation, Gonzalez had been driving in the area near the school when he saw Rodriguez and a 15-year-old girl fighting in the street. Two others — a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy — were also somehow involved, but how much they participated is being probed, a police news release stated.
Rodriguez and the two males — Rafeul Chowdhury, the father of Rodriguez’s 5-month-old son, and his brother, Shahriear Chowdhury — then got into a gray sedan and tried to drive away from the scene. At that point, Gonzalez approached and opened fire on the vehicle, hitting the young mother in the upper body, according to police.
The officer had warned Rodriguez and the other teen girl that he would use pepper spray if they didn’t stop fighting — which they did — but he didn’t give any other warnings prior to the shooting, according to Rafeul Chowdhury.
“All we did is just got in the car and left,” he said. “He never told us to stop anytime soon.”
Rodriguez was left brain-dead. She was taken off life support on Oct. 5, following a surgery to remove some of her organs, which will be donated to save the lives of five others.
The Long Beach Unified School District’s board voted unanimously to fire Gonzalez on Oct. 6.
In a statement Tuesday, the LBUSD reiterated that its Use of Force Policy dictates that 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.
“The unanimous decision to terminate this officer’s employment occurred after our internal review clearly revealed areas where this employee violated District policy, and did not meet our expectations,” the statement added.
Gonzalez is scheduled for arraignment on Friday.
“We must hold accountable the people we have placed in positions of trust to protect us,” District Attorney George Gascón said. “That is especially true for the armed personnel we traditionally have relied upon to guard our children on their way to and from and at school.”