Murder charges were filed against a former school safety officer who shot an 18-year-old mother in Southern California last month, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office announced Wednesday. 

The officer, Eddie F. Gonzalez, was fired from his position one day after shooting Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez on Sept. 27.

A bullet fired by Gonzalez hit Rodriguez “in the upper body” as she and two friends drove away from an off-campus parking lot near Millikan High School, according to the Long Beach Police Department. Gonzalez, who was driving nearby, stopped after witnessing a fight between Rodriguez and a 15-year-old girl, according to police.

Rodriguez, the mother of a 5-month-old boy, was taken off life support and died Oct. 5.

Oscar Rodriguez was the brother to Mona. He spoke shortly after the announcement.

“My sister was amazing. She was a person to help me out in my times of trouble as a young child,” he said. “She was there for me, and now that she’s gone I don’t know how to heal. This type of criminal action should not be allowed in our state, in our country.”

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced the charge of one count of murder during a news conference in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon. 

“We must hold accountable the people we have placed in positions of trust to protect us,” Gascón said. “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.”

The social activism that followed the murders of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor in 2020 saw a rise in calls for the end of school armed officers. But criticisms of campus law enforcement and spending on police have been going back a long time. The American Civil Liberties Union’s 2019 Study recommended that spending be moved from campus policing towards mental health professionals.    

The “prioritization of school police is troubling, not only for the lack of mental health support for our nation’s students, but also given that research indicates school police do not reduce mass shootings and instead contribute to less inclusive school climates,” the report said.

Luis Carillo was a lawyer for the Rodriguez family and commented upon the announcement.

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He said in a statement that “This is justice beginning for Mona and her mother, as well as the whole Rodriguez family.” But it was too late to arrest the man that unjustly killed Mona Rodriguez.

In dismissing Gonzalez from his job after Rodriguez’s death, the district found that he violated policy forbidding an officer from firing at a fleeing person, a moving vehicle or through a vehicle window unless such action is warranted as “a final means of defense.”

Gonzalez had passed all his background checks and his required training had been confirmed before he was hired in January, according to Superintendent Jill A. Baker.

He was a safety officer employed by a school district, which is different from school resource officers, who are federally defined as being fully sworn, certified law enforcement officers deployed by a law enforcement agency to perform community-based policing on a school campus. 

Gonzalez is expected to be arraigned Friday, the district attorney’s office said. 

Contributing: Bill Keveney, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

Source: USAToday.com

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