According to police, the shooting of a California teenager by a school safety officer is now being investigated as a homicide.
Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez, 18, was taken off life support on Tuesday, more than a week after Long Beach Unified School District safety officer Eddie F. Gonzalez was accused of shooting at a car she was in.
“In light of this information, detectives are now treating this case as a homicide,” the Long Beach Police Department said in a statement.
Gonzalez, who has not been charged in connection with the Sept. 27 incident, was initially placed on leave but was later fired by the district for violating the district’s use of force policy. Gonzalez was driving a school safety vehicle near Millikan High School when he witnessed a fight between Rodriguez and an unidentified 15-year-old girl, according to Long Beach police.
Rodriguez, according to police, knew the girl and allegedly started the fight. When Gonzalez intervened, Rodriguez jumped into a car with two others who were “also involved in the assault,” according to authorities.
The school resource officer can be seen on video attempting to persuade the teenagers to stop or surrender. Gonzalez drew his weapon and fired from behind the speeding vehicle. Rodriguez was struck and was airlifted to Long Beach Medical Center in critical condition. She died Tuesday night, according to Luis Carrillo, an attorney for her family.
Rodriguez, the mother of a 5-month-old baby, saved the lives of five people through organ donation, her family said in a statement issued through their attorney. “All the Doctors and Nurses of Long Beach Memorial Hospital on Mona’s floor gave Mona a Hero’s Celebration by standing in the hallway as Mona was taken to the operation while her favorite song — ‘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 Your Justice!”
Gonzalez was fired by the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education the day after her death. According to the Long Beach Post, the district’s school safety officers are not full-fledged officers like those employed by police departments, but they do carry guns.
“I’d like to begin by expressing our profound sadness about this incident,” Superintendent Jill A. Baker said in a statement. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to everyone affected by this tragic event, particularly Manuela Rodriguez’s family and friends.”
In a press release, the district stated that its policy states that a school resource officer should not fire his weapon if a person is fleeing or in a moving vehicle “unless circumstances clearly warrant the use of a firearm as a final means of defense.”
Gonzalez, according to Baker, violated the policy and “did not meet our expectations.”
“We believe the decision to terminate this officer’s employment is justified, warranted, and, quite frankly, the right thing to do,” Baker said.
The shooting occurred at a time when people across the country are questioning the effectiveness of school police officers, as part of a larger police reform movement that arose in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis city officer in 2020.