Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez, the 18-year-old mother shot by a Long Beach school safety officer, died Tuesday after more than a week on life support, her family’s lawyers announced in a statement.
Rodriguez was shot Sept. 27 near Millikan High School in Long Beach while sitting in the passenger seat of a moving car.
Rodriguez’s heart, liver, lungs and two kidneys were donated to five people who needed organ transplants, the statement said. Her heart stopped at 5:14 p.m. Tuesday.
The school safety officer opened fire on the car as it sped from the scene of a fight between Rodriguez and an unidentified 15-year-old girl, according to the Long Beach Police Department.
Police believe Rodriguez instigated the altercation and that her partner, Rafeul Chowdhury, 20, and his younger brother, Shahriear Chowdhury, 16, may also have played a role.
All three were in the car with Rafeul Chowdhury driving when the officer, identified by the school district as Eddie F. Gonzalez, fired.
Chowdhury said no one in the car was armed.
“It was all for no reason,” he told reporters last week. “The way he shot at us wasn’t right.”
The two had a 5-month-old son, Isael.
Video posted to social media appeared to show the officer firing at least twice as the car drove away, in apparent violation of district policy, according to documents obtained by the The Times.
Officers are not permitted to fire at a moving vehicle and may fire only when reasonably necessary and justified under the circumstances, such as self-defense and the protection of others, according to the Long Beach Unified safety office’s policy.
The policy also bars shooting at fleeing suspects.
The school district is a “separate government entity” from the Long Beach Police Department, the city said in a statement, and Gonzalez was not employed by the city.
Records show that Gonzalez was briefly employed by the Los Alamitos and Sierra Madre police departments before moving to Long Beach Unified.
Los Alamitos city spokeswoman Chelsi Wilson confirmed that Gonzalez worked for the city from Jan. 8 to April 8, 2019 but declined to provide details about his departure.
Gonzalez was employed by the Sierra Madre Police Department from September 2019 to July 2020, police department spokeswoman Laura Aguilar confirmed.
She said the city “chose to separate from Officer Gonzalez” but would not provide additional information.
Gonzalez was hired by the school district this January and has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, according to spokesman Chris Eftychiou.
On Wednesday afternoon, school district officials will hold a news conference to discuss an internal review of the shooting.
During a news conference Tuesday, Rodriguez’s brother, Iran Rodriguez, said she was shot with a hollow-point bullet that “exploded inside her brain.”
“She’s been dead since the first day she was shot,” he said. “We just kept her artificially alive just so we could kiss her goodbye.”
Long Beach police officials had said she was shot in the upper body.
The family’s lawyers, Luis and Michael Carrillo, said doctors and nurses on her floor at Long Beach Memorial Hospital gave her a “hero’s celebration” as she was taken to the organ donation operating room Tuesday afternoon.
“Getting justice for my sister is all I want,” Iran Rodriguez said.
The Long Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office are investigating the shooting.
A D.A.’s spokesperson on Wednesday said the case had not been presented to the office.
Michael Carrillo said the family was now focusing on the Long Beach Police Department “and what is taking them so long.”
The family is “kind of lost,” he said. “They kept her alive to say their goodbyes and spend time with her, but they don’t know where to turn, and nobody’s giving them any information on what the next steps are.”
A spokesman for the Long Beach Police Department said Wednesday that the investigation “is still ongoing.”
Gonzalez could not be reached for comment.
The Long Beach Unified School District employs nine full-time and two part-time safety officers, as well as four supervisors, Eftychiou, the district spokesman, said. District officers provide their own duty weapons, which are approved by their supervisor and selected from a list that is accepted by law enforcement agencies.
The Times reached out to multiple law enforcement experts who reviewed the videos and they all said, based on the current evidence, the shooting appears unjustified.
“The car clearly was not a weapon, as it was moving away from him when he fired,” said Charles “Sid” Heal, a retired L.A. County sheriff’s commander who has testified in hundreds of use-of-force cases.
The shooting has been roundly criticized by civil rights groups, many of which have noted that school police disproportionately target Black and Latino children. A friend of Rodriguez’s said no one in the car was a student at Milliken High School.
Black Lives Matter Long Beach met with Long Beach Unified Supt. Jill Baker after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
The group demanded that Long Beach police officers and school safety officers be removed from campuses “because they also carry guns that could be potentially harmful to students.”
Baker and the board of education removed the three Long Beach Police Department officers that were stationed at Long Beach high schools — a decision that was already under discussion prior to the meeting, Eftychiou said.
However, Black Lives Matter said, school safety officers “are still on campus with punitive policies which allow for guns, batons, and other weapons to be used on students.”
Mo Canady, executive director of the National Assn. of School Resource Officers, said in a statement that school safety officers are neither sworn police officers nor employed by a law enforcement agency.
“NASRO strongly recommends that any armed personnel on school campuses be … sworn police officers who are carefully selected and specifically trained in school-based policing,” Canady said.
Yet school police officers have also been criticized for excessive use of force. The Los Angeles Unified School District in February cut one-third of its officers. Other districts have considered similar measures.
A retired Long Beach Unified school safety officer who asked to remain anonymous said the officers go through a police academy followed by a short probationary period, but their training is “not anywhere close” to what officers at the Long Beach Police Department and similar agencies receive.
“What that officer did was completely out of line of the protocol,” he said.
window.fbAsyncInit = function()
if (document.getElementById(‘facebook-jssdk’) === null)
const js = document.createElement(‘script’);
js.id = ‘facebook-jssdk’;
js.async = true;