(CN) — Former Long Beach Unified School District safety officer Eddie Gonzalez was arrested and charged with first-degree murder Wednesday in the fatal September shooting of 18-year-old Manuela Rodriguez.
“We must hold accountable the people we have placed in positions of trust to protect us,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said at a press conference. “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.”
Manuela "Mona" Rodriguez was the mother of a 5-month-old son when she was shot on Sept. 27. She died Oct. 5, after being taken off life support.
The 51-year-old Gonzalez, who worked at Millikan High School, was driving when he noticed a physical altercation between Rodriguez and an unidentified 15-year-old girl about a block from the school. The Long Beach Police Department has said that although Rodriguez initiated the fight, she was unarmed.
After the fight, Rodriguez got into the back seat of a car. Gonzalez followed her and approached the vehicle. Video of the incident, posted online by the Long Beach Post, shows the vehicle abruptly screeching away, and Gonzalez quickly firing at least two rounds into the fleeing car. According to police, one of those shots hit Rodriguez in the head. Her 20-year-old boyfriend and 16-year-old brother were also in the car.
The day after Rodriguez died, the Long Beach Unified Board of Education voted to fire Gonzalez after finding the safety officer violated the district's use-of-force policy. The policy states officers should not fire at a fleeing person or fire into a moving vehicle unless “circumstances clearly warrant the use of a firearm as a final means of defense,” according to a school district spokesman.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called for the DA to go one step further and file charges against Gonzalez.
Until recently, LA County law enforcement officers have rarely been prosecuted for shootings that occur while on duty. Gascón, who took office in December 2020, and who is himself a former LAPD officer, has promised to prosecute cops for misconduct more often than his predecessors. In August, Gascón filed charges against a Torrance police officer in the shooting of a man armed with a knife who was walking away.
Gonzalez will be arraigned Friday and is being held in a Long Beach jail.