Family of 18-year-old mom who was fatally shot by a school officer in California reaches $13M settlement

 Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez was taken off life support in October 2021, more than a week after officials said Long Beach Unified School District safety Officer Eddie F. Gonzalez had fired at a car she was riding in after intervening in an altercation that involved the teen.

Family of teen girl who was killed by school police, settle with Long Beach school district for $13 millionOscar Rodriguez, left, supports his mother Manuela, as she speaks about the loss of her daughter Mona Rodriguez in Long Beach, Calif., on April 4, 2023.Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The family of an 18-year-old California woman who was fatally shot after a school safety officer opened fire on a car she was riding in has reached a multimillion dollar settlement with the school district involved.

Manuela "Mona" Rodriguez’s family was awarded $13 million from the Long Beach Unified School District in connection with her death in September 2021, attorneys for the family announced Tuesday.

“This is step one of accountability,” Rodriguez's brother, Omar Rodriguez, said at a news conference aired by NBC Los Angeles Tuesday. “I’m really hoping that we get true justice. You know, my sister was robbed of that. We were robbed of our sister."

Rodriguez, who was the mother to a then-5-month-old baby, was taken off life support in October 2021, more than a week after officials said Long Beach Unified School District safety Officer Eddie F. Gonzalez had fired at a car she was in.

Gonzalez had been driving a school safety vehicle near Millikan High School when he came upon a fight between Rodriguez and an unidentified 15-year-old girl, Long Beach police previously said.

Police said Rodriguez had known the girl and had allegedly started the fight. When Gonzalez intervened, Rodriguez got into a vehicle occupied by two others whom authorities said were “also involved in the assault.”

Video showed the school resource officer trying to get the teenagers to stop, but as the vehicle sped off, Gonzalez drew his weapon and fired from behind the car.

Rodriguez was hit and was taken to Long Beach Medical Center in critical condition before being taken off life support days later.

Gonzalez was fired shortly after the shooting and he was subsequently arrested and charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty in December 2021 and is still awaiting trial.

Gonzalez’s attorney had previously argued that the school safety officer had feared for his life at the time of the shooting and acted in self-defense, NBC Los Angeles reported.

“This was a homicide,” Arnoldo Casillas, a lawyer for Rodriguez’s family, said at Tuesday’s news conference. “Anyone who sees the video and looks at it honestly sees it for what it is. He was not in danger. The car had gone by and there was no reason to shoot.”

Rodriguez’s mother, Manuela Sahagun, sued Gonzalez and the Long Beach Unified School District in December 2021 alleging wrongful death, excessive force, negligence and civil rights violations, NBC Los Angeles reported.

In a statement, the Long Beach Unified School District told the outlet “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.” The school district did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment from NBC News.

Previously, the district had said that its policy outlines several instances in which a school resource officer should not fire his weapon, including if a person is fleeing or in a moving vehicle “unless circumstances clearly warrant the use of a firearm as a final means of defense.”

Superintendent Jill A. Baker had said Gonzalez had violated the policy “and did not meet our expectations," saying that the decision to terminate his employment was "warranted, justified, and quite frankly, the right thing to do.

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