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Criminal Justice

LA DA George Gascón Charges Ex-Long Beach School Safety Officer With The Murder Of 'Mona' Rodriguez

A small poster with a blue border is affixed to a railing in front of a building, with two sets of steps going up behind it. On a white background, the poster reads: "Justice for Mona Rodriguez!" at the top. Underneath those words is a color photo of Rodriguez holding her infant son. Below the photo is says: "We demand the immediate arrest and prosecution of the criminal 'Safety Officer' who killed Mona Rodriguez!" It is signed at the bottom by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police.
A poster at the location of a news conference held Wednesday by Mona Rodriguez' family.
(Emily Elena Dugdale
/
LAist)
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L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón filed a murder charge Wednesday against Eddie Gonzalez, the former Long Beach Unified School District school safety officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Manuela "Mona" Rodriguez last month.

Long Beach detectives arrested Gonzalez Wednesday in the city of Orange, said Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna. Gonzalez' arraignment is expected Friday, Gascón said.

Calling Rodriguez' death "unfortunate and unnecessary," Gascón told a news conference:

"We understand the importance of this case and the impact that it had in the community.”
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The murder charge "is just a step in trying to bring some closure to this very unfortunate and impactful incident," Luna said.

Rodriguez was taken off life support at Long Beach Memorial Care Hospital after surgery to remove some of her organs for donation, and died on Oct. 5. She left behind a five-month-old son.

The Long Beach Unified School District fired Gonzalez the next day.

The shooting sparked outrage and protests, including one organized by the Coalition for Community Control Over The Police outside Long Beach Police Department headquarters on Oct. 3, while Rodriguez was lying brain dead in the hospital.

Investigators said that on Sept. 27, Gonzalez was trying to break up a fight between Rodriguez and a 15-year-old girl near the campus of Millikan High School in Long Beach, and drew his weapon when Rodriguez got into a car trying to flee the scene.

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Videos of the incident posted to social media show the officer shooting into the car, followed by screams.

An image of a woman with straight hair and a blue top.
Manuela "Mona" Rodriguez.
(Courtesy Michael Carrillo)

Rafi Chowdhury, the father of Rodriguez' son, "is tremendously gratified by the District Attorney’s decision to prosecute this school safety officer," Chowdhury's attorney Robin Perry said in a statement. "For so many years, those in positions of authority escaped responsibility these types of criminal acts," he said. "The community demanded more and DA Gascon has answered the call. The Long Beach Police Department answered the call."

Rodriguez' brother Oscar, calling his slain sister "amazing" and someone who "helped me out in my times of troubles," said "it shouldn't have taken a whole month" to file charges against Gonzalez.

One of the family's attorneys, Luis Carrillo, agreed. "[Rodriguez] was shot on a Monday, [Gonzalez] should have been charged on a Tuesday," he said.

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We could not reach Gonzalez, who's being held in jail in lieu of $2 million bail. It's unclear who his lawyer is.

Referring to a report in the Long Beach Post that Gonzalez had briefly worked as a police officer in the cities of Los Alamitos and Sierra Madre before joining Long Beach Unified, Oscar Rodriguez said, “I don’t get how these people are hired.”

In a statement Wednesday, the school district reiterated its earlier conclusion that Gonzalez had violated its use of force policy, which "states that officers 1) shall not fire at a fleeing person, 2) shall not fire at a moving vehicle, and 3) shall not fire through a vehicle window unless circumstances clearly warrant the use of a firearm as a final means of defense."

Safety Officers employed by Long Beach Unified complete a standardized 664-hour basic training course for law enforcement officers.

While Long Beach’s school safety officers wear a uniform and carry a firearm, they are not sworn peace officers and are not required to have previous law enforcement experience.

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Rodriguez's family previously had called on the California Attorney General's office to investigate the shooting.

What questions do you have about Southern California?