UPDATE: Long Beach SSO Who Fatally Shot Teen Has Been Fired
Before joining LBUSD in January, Eddie Gonzalez had served just a few months as a police officer in two cities.
UPDATE Oct. 11
The Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) Board of Education unanimously voted to fire the school security officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Mona Rodriguez. Rodriguez was taken off life support after the shooting left her brain dead.
The decision to fire Eddie Gonzalez was made during the closed session portion of the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, reports Fox 11.
“After careful consideration, our Board of Education took the action to terminate the employment of the school safety officer who was involved in the off-campus shooting on September 27,” said Superintendent Jill Baker. “After our internal review, we clearly saw areas where the employee violated district policy and did not meet our standards and expectations. We believe the decision to terminate this officer’s employment is warranted, justified and quite frankly the right thing to do.”
The board determined Gonzalez violated its use-of-force policy which states officers shall not fire at a fleeing person, shall not fire at a moving vehicle, and shall not fire through a vehicle window unless circumstances clearly warrant the use of a firearm as a final means of defense.
Peaceful protesters gathered outside the Long Beach Unified Administration Building Wednesday where the meeting was held and called for police-free schools and policy changes.
Baker said the school board will re-evaluate the role of SSOs in Long Beach schools.
“As with all things in a school district, especially in a tragedy of this nature, we will absolutely be reviewing all aspects of our school safety officers and their role in keeping students safe in the district including whether they carry a weapon or not,” she said.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — The Long Beach school safety officer who shot a teen following an off-campus altercation was only on the job for several months and additional details have been released about his previous brief stints as a police officer.
Eddie Gonzalez, 51, was hired as an SSO for the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) on Jan. 10, LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou told The Daily Beast. Eftychiou said Gonzalez had no disciplinary issues or complaints filed against him during his eight months working for the district.
On Sept. 27, Gonzalez responded to an altercation between 18-year-old Mona Rodriguez and an unidentified 15-year-old girl about a block from the school. After the fight was broken up, Rodriguez jumped in the passenger seat of a vehicle driven by her boyfriend. As it sped away, Gonzalez fired two shots, striking Rodriguez. Long Beach police say she was struck in her upper body while her family says she was shot in the head.
According to her family’s attorney, Rodriguez, who has a 5-month-old baby, is brain dead and will be taken off life support once her body is prepared for organ donation. One of her brothers said her organs will help eight people.
A former LBUSD SSO told The Los Angeles Times that Gonzalez’s actions were “completely out of line of the protocol” and that they are told not to get involved in incidents that happen off-campus. The district’s use of force policy also says officers are not allowed to shoot at moving vehicles.
There are 10 full-time security officers employed by the LBUSD with an annual cost of nearly $1 million. They all must undergo 664-hour Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) academy that includes firearms training. Eftychiou said Gonzalez was up-to-date on required firearms training courses.
Many law enforcement experts say they have significant concerns about how the shooting transpired. Timothy Williams, a police use-of-force expert and retired detective supervisor with the Los Angeles Police Department, told The Long Beach Post that it doesn’t appear Gonzalez’s life was in danger when he fired his weapon. While Gonzalez could argue he feared for his life because the vehicle was moving, he was standing too close to the vehicle, which is usually against policy, Williams added.
“He shouldn’t have been that close to the car since there was no threat,” he said. “He should not have shot at a moving vehicle. Everything was wrong.”
Eddie Gonzalez Briefly Served as a Police Officer in 2 Cities
In 2015, Gonzalez graduated from the Orange County Sheriff Department’s regional training academy as a reserve deputy and was 2018 reserve deputy of year.
Before joining LBUSD in 2021, records show Gonzalez served just a few months as a police officer in two cities. The city of Los Alamitos confirmed he worked there from Jan. 8, 2019, to April 8, 2019. In Sept. 2019, Gonzalez was hired as a police officer with the city of Sierra Madre but his employment ended in July 2020, according to The Long Beach Post.
Eftychiou said all of Gonzalez’s prior employers were contacted before he was hired by the district and that “nothing in those checks was disqualifying.”
Williams said he has concerns about Gonzalez’s short stints as a police officer and that it is rare for a newly sworn police officer to leave a department and later become an SSO.
“It just seems like a bunch of red flags,” he said.
A protest is planned Sunday to demand the arrest of Gonzalez, who has been placed on paid leave pending an investigation. Rodriguez’s family is also demanding criminal charges be levied against him, according to The Rolling Stone.
“My sister’s rights were violated. Her life was taken. You tell me that was just? I say no. I say my sister was murdered,” said Omar Rodriguez, Mona’s brother.
Luis Castillo, a lawyer representing the family, said Gonzalez “should be prosecuted for second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon” and that “he had no imminent threat from Mona or from the car. But worse, Mona was the passenger. She was not even driving. She had no gun. Nobody in the car had any guns.”
The Long Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney are leading the investigation.