The family of an 18-year-old woman killed two years ago when a school safety officer opened fire on a car in which she was riding in Long Beach has reached a settlement with the school district.
Manuela ‘Mona’ Rodriguez’s family was awarded $13 million in her September 2021 shooting death.
The shooting unfolded after a Long Beach Unified School District safety officer on patrol near the Millikan High School campus responded to an altercation in the middle of the street. Rodriguez, a 15-year-old, 16-year-old and a 20-year-old were all involved in the dispute, Long Beach police said.
Rodriguez, the mother of a boy who was 5 months old at the time, was in the passenger seat of a car that was leaving the scene when the school safety officer fired into the vehicle, striking her. Family member said she was shot in the head.
Rodriguez died days later at a hospital.
Family members spoke Tuesday at a news conference with attorneys.
“We’re not supposed to be here,” said her brother Oscar Rodriguez. “It feels like I’m re-living the whole thing.
“My sister was one of my pillars. It’s just my mentality and my family keeping me going forward… I miss my sister. There’s no money in the world that would replace that.”
The family’s attorney called the settlement the largest ever in a shooting involving a school district in the United States.
Part of the encounter was captured on cell phone video, which shows the car moving away from school safety officer Eddie Gonzalez. 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.
“They failed in every possible way when hiring, training and keeping on duty Eddie Gonzalez,” attorney Arnoldo Casillas said. “But they have to be recognized for doing the right thing. The school district and its attorneys were honest, unlike most public agencies.”
Gonzalez was fired after the shooting. He was arrested and charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty in December 2021 and is awaiting trial.
“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.”
Rodriguez’s mother, Manuela Sahagun, sued Gonzalez and the LBUSD in December 2021 alleging wrongful death, excessive force, negligence and civil rights violations.
“The school district and its insurance carriers have been in negotiations on a settlement, but because we have not seen or ratified an agreement, we cannot discuss the details,” the school district said in a statement. “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’s attorney has argued that he feared for his life at the time of the shooting and acted in self-defense.
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.
City News Service contributed to this report.
Source: NBC Los Angeles
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