by Chuck Sharman
The District Attorney for Los Angeles County announced on October 27, 2021, that a murder charge had been filed against a now-fired school resource officer (“SRO”) who fatally shot a young woman the month before. Calling the charge “a first step on the road to justice,” an attorney for the woman’s family said that “it holds the officer accountable for his actions.”
That’s remarkable because the charge against 51-year-old Eddie F. Gonzalez represents a rare case where a law enforcement officer faces charges for an on-duty killing. A database maintained by the Washington Post counts 858 fatal police shootings in the last year alone, while the number of officers convicted—42 in total from 2005 to 2020—represents a tiny fraction of the police slayings.
The Long Beach Unified School District employed Gonzalez to police Millikan High School, where the shooting occurred on September 27, 2021, leaving 18-year-old Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez dead. Though she was not enrolled at the school that afternoon, Gonzalez noticed her engaged in a street fight with a 15-year-old female student near the campus. The officer then attempted to intervene.
That’s when Rodriguez fled in a car with the father of her 6-month-old child, 20-year-old Rafeul Chowdhury, and his unnamed 16-year-old brother. A cell phone video that went viral on social media showed Gonzalez then approaching the vehicle to stop it, firing his gun at it at least twice when the trio began to drive away. Rodriguez was struck in the head and died at a hospital of her injuries nine days later on October 6, 2021.
The school board of the 70,000-student district voted to terminate Gonzalez that same day. District Superintendent Jill Baker said an internal review “clearly” revealed “areas where the employee violated district (use-of-force) policy,” which prohibits an SRO from shooting at a fleeing suspect or at a moving vehicle.
After his arrest, Gonzalez was being held in the Long Beach jail with bail set at $2 million. It was unclear if he had an attorney.
In announcing the charge, D.A. George Gascón vowed to “hold accountable the people we have placed in positions of trust to protect us.”
“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,” he added.
The Rodriguez family attorney, Thomas Carillo, said the charge against the former SRO “is not going to bring Mona back.”
Sources: The Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, Statistica
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