School Safety Officer Terminated Following Student Death

A Long Beach, Calif., school safety officer has been fired after discharging his firearm in an incident that left an 18-year-old mother brain-dead. According to bystander video and news sources, on Monday, Sept. 27, former officer Eddie F. Gonzalez fired two shots at a car leaving a parking lot following a verbal altercation between teenagers. One of the bullets struck Mona Rodriguez, 18, in the head. Rodriguez’s family pulled her off life support on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

On Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Long Beach Unified School District’s school board voted unanimously to terminate Gonzalez. News sources report that Gonzalez had been hired in January after short tenures at several different police departments. The official cause of termination was violation the district’s use-of-force policy. A district spokesperson also confirmed that Rodriguez was not an LBUSD student at the time of the incident, but she had been previously.

The Long Beach Police Department has also opened a homicide investigation, as Gonzalez was an employee of the school district instead of the city. Police will send the results of their investigation to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which will decide what charges (if any) to bring against Gonzalez.

A crowd of dozens gathered outside the school board meeting on Wednesday evening, many attendees supporting removing officers from schools and calling for more training in de-escalating situations. “I hope my sister gets the justice that she deserves,” said Oscar Rodriguez, 23, the victim’s older brother. “This can happen to any other family next.”

According to The Washington Post, the district’s use of force policy permits officers to fire their weapons only in self-defense or to prevent death or “great bodily injury” of another. It also explicitly forbids officers to fire at someone who is feeling, toward a moving vehicle or through a vehicle window, unless the circumstances “clearly warrant the use of a firearm as a final means of defense.”

“We clearly saw areas where this employee violated District policy and did not meet our expectations,” said Jill Baker, Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent. “We believe the decision to terminate this officer’s employment is warranted, justified and—quite frankly—the right thing to do.”

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at [email protected]