School safety officer's shooting of student investigated as homicide

School safety officer's shooting of student investigated as homicide
© (carlballou/iStock)

The fatal shooting of a student by a school safety officer in California is now being investigated as a homicide, according to police.

The Long Beach Police Department announced in a statement on Thursday that the case involving Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez, 18, who was shot in the upper body by Long Beach Unified School District Officer Eddie F. Gonzalez on Sept. 27, is now being investigated as a homicide after news broke that she died of her injuries.

According to police, preliminary investigations show that Gonzalez was driving when he saw a physical altercation take place in the street between Rodriguez and a 15-year-old female.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rodriguez reportedly started the fight with the girl, whom she knew, according to NBC News, citing police.

Two other men, one 20 and another 16, were also involved in the situation but the level of their participation in the incident remains unknown, according to police.

Rodriguez was reportedly trying to leave the scene with the men in a gray sedan when Gonzalez fired his gun to try and stop them.

Rodriguez, who was in the front passenger seat of the car, was hit by the gunfire.

She was transported to the Long Beach Medical Center in critical condition, according to NBC News, and died on Wednesday.

The Long Beach Police Department said in a statement that it is conducting a criminal investigation into the incident.

Gonzalez has not been charged in connection to the incident, but he was fired by his school district for breaching its use of force policy, according to NBC News.

He was at first placed on leave.

NBC News reported, citing video footage, that Gonzalez first tried to persuade the teenagers to stop or surrender, but allegedly fired shots when the car fled the scene.

Rodriguez’s family said in a statement through their attorney that their daughter, who is the mother of a five-month-old baby, saved five people by donating her organs.

“All the Doctors and Nurses of Long Beach Memorial Hospital on Mona's floor gave a Hero's Celebration to Mona by standing in the hallway as Mona was taken to the operation while her favorite song was played — 'Letter to my son' by Skeezy and the song was replayed over and over during the operation to donate her organs to five people,” her family said.

“Rest In Peace Mona—Your Family will Always fight for Justice for You!!” they added.

The family also said that their lawyer Michael Carrillo demands that the Long Beach Police Department and District Attorney George Gascon work together to charge Gonzalez for the murder of Rodriguez.

Carrillo penned a letter to California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Sept. 29 contending that “The unjustified use of deadly force by this officer also meet the threshold for criminal charges against the officer for murder or for manslaughter if she dies.”

Carrillo, during comments to The Hill on Thursday, pressed for the Long Beach Police Department to fire Gonzalez.

“We all knew it was a homicide but the real question is when is the police going to arrest this criminal cop?” Carrillo said.

“In these kinds of cases where it’s death at the hands of another the coroner routinely says it’s a homicide. For Long Beach Police Department to acknowledge the obvious, unless there’s an arrest statement by the Long Beach Police Department, it means nothing until this criminal cop is arrested,” he added.

The Long Beach Unified School District said in a statement that school resources officers are expected to follow a policy that details instances when officers should not fire their weapons, including if a person is running away or in a moving vehicle “unless circumstances clearly warrant the use of a firearm as a final means of defense,” according to NBC News.

Jill A. Baker, the superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District, said Gonzalez’s actions last month were in breach of the policy and “did not meet our expectations.”

“We believe the decision to terminate this officer’s employment is warranted, justified, and quite frankly, the right thing to do,” she added.