LONG BEACH (CNS) - The family of an 18-year-old woman fatally shot by a Long Beach Unified School District safety officer while she was sitting in a car announced Tuesday that they've reached a $13 million settlement of their lawsuit against the district.
Manuela "Mona" Rodriguez, whose son was just 5 months old at the time, was shot once in the back of the head on Sept. 27, 2021, while sitting in the front passenger seat of a moving car near Spring Street and Palo Verde Avenue, in the vicinity of Millikan High School. She remained on life support until Oct. 5, when her organs were harvested for donation.
Eddie Gonzalez, a 53-year-old now-former LBUSD school safety officer, is awaiting trial on a murder charge. Gonzalez's attorney has argued that he feared for his life at the time of the shooting and acted in self-defense. He was fired by the district a week after the shooting, then was arrested and charged in late October 2021.
Rodriguez's mother, Manuela Sahagun, sued Gonzalez and the LBUSD in December 2021 alleging wrongful death, excessive force, negligence and civil rights violations.
The suit alleged that Gonzalez did not pass probation when he tried to be hired by the Los Alamitos and Sierra Madre police departments, but he was still hired by the LBUSD, which compounded matters by negligently training him.
Attorneys also argued that Gonzalez violated district policy by shooting into a moving vehicle shooting at a fleeing person.
"I personally don't really care about the settlement. It's not bringing back my sister," Rodriguez's brother, Omar, said Tuesday. "I don't want anybody else to go through this pain."
The district issued a statement saying that while settlement talks have been under way, "we have not seen or ratified and agreement," and thus could not discuss details. The district added, however, that "settlements like these include language that there is no admission of liability on the district's part. However, we again share our sincerest condolences with everyone who was impacted by this terrible event."
Gonzalez told police shortly after the shooting that he had come upon a fight in the street between Rodriguez and a female Millikan student and that he asked the two to sit down after breaking up the altercation, but Rodriguez fled to the nearby car, Long Beach Police Detective Donald Collier testified at a preliminary hearing in the case.
Then-Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna -- now Los Angeles County sheriff -- said at the time that Rodriguez was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car, and as the driver tried to pull away from the scene, Gonzalez fired his weapon. According to court testimony, one bullet went through the rear passenger window, with the other striking just below the handle of the rear passenger door.
Deputy District Attorney Saeed Teymouri called it a case of "second- degree murder," telling the judge during the preliminary hearing that Gonzalez was "in no danger." The prosecutor argued that he believed the school safety officer had acted "out of anger" and not fear -- an accusation that Gonzalez's attorney said was "utterly ridiculous."
Gonzalez's attorney countered that the vehicle's driver decided to go forward rather than stopping as the school safety officer demanded, and that his client feared for his life.
The shooting was captured on video that was widely aired on local media.