The Southern California school safety officer who shot a student last week has been fired and the Long Beach Police Department announced that it is investigating the incident as a homicide.
The announcement was made the day after the victim, 18-year-old Manuela ‘Mona’ Rodriguez, was taken off life support.
The Long Beach Police Department said in a statement released on October 7: “Yesterday, Oct. 6, 2021, Manuela ‘Mona’ Rodriguez, who was struck in the upper body in a shooting incident on Sep. 27, 2021, succumbed to her injuries.
“In light of this news, detectives are now investigating this matter as a homicide.”
A Long Beach PD spokesman confirmed to The Daily Beast that an investigation is underway, but could not provide a timeline for its completion.
The announcement follows Wednesday’s firing by the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) of the officer involved, Eddie F. Gonzalez, for violating district policy on the use of force, Superintendent Jill Baker said at a news conference.
“After our internal review, we clearly saw areas where the employee violated district policy and did not meet our standards and expectations,” Baker told reporters.
“We believe the decision to terminate this officer’s employment is warranted, justified and quite frankly, the right thing to do.”
Jerlene Tatum, a community advocate working with the Rodriguez family, told The Daily Beast that they are “thankful” Gonzalez’s employment has been terminated, but that the family is hopeful he will soon be arrested and charged.
Rodriguez was shot on the afternoon of Sept. 27, while sitting in a car near Long Beach’s Millikan High School.
Moments earlier, Rodriguez had been in the middle of the street, fighting a 15-year-old girl shortly after school closed for the day. When Gonzalez happened upon the scene, he reportedly warned the pair he would pepper spray them if they didn’t break it up.
Rodriguez then got back in the car, which started to pull away, according to bystander video of the interaction. Suddenly, Gonzalez, who was standing beside the front passenger door, fired two shots at the moving vehicle, striking Rodriguez.
Rodriguez spent more than a week on life support before she died. On Tuesday, October 5, she donated her heart, liver, lungs, and both kidneys, said Luis Carrillo, the lawyer representing Rodriguez’s family.
The medical staff on Rodriguez’s floor stood in the hallway to honor her as she was taken to the operating room for her organs to be harvested. Her favorite song, “Letter to My Son,” by Skeezy, was played on repeat during the procedure, Carrillo told The Daily Beast.
Although Carrillo is pleased that the Long Beach PD now considers the case to be a homicide, he wants Gonzalez to be charged with murder.
Carrillo said: “We’re just halfway there. The word ‘homicide’ is commonly used by the county coroner here—if it’s not accidental, and it’s not suicide, if it’s caused at the hands of another, it’s homicide. But that doesn’t guarantee they’re going to arrest him.”