Relatives of a Southern California mother shot and killed by a school safety officer will receive $13 million in a settlement with the Long Beach Unified School District, the family’s attorneys announced.
Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez, 18, was shot outside of a high school in Long Beach on Sept. 27. 2021, and later died of her injuries. The multimillion-dollar payout would settle the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Rodriguez’s family.
“Although the district will not be admitting liability, $13 million is a form of accountability for the actions of their trigger-happy security guard who ended a life and shattered a family,” said the Rodriguez family’s attorney, Michael S. Carrillo, in a statement Wednesday to USA TODAY.
Rodriguez’s brother Omar said at a Tuesday news conference that the family’s legal action against the school district is not about the money.
“It’s not bringing back my sister,″ he said. “I don’t want anybody else to go through this pain.″
What happened to Mona Rodriguez?
Rodriguez, the mother of a 5-month-old son, was shot in the back of the head as she rode away from an off-campus parking lot near Millikan High School with two friends on Sept. 27, 2021, according to the Long Beach Police Department.
School safety officer Eddie F. Gonzalez was driving in the area and stopped upon seeing a fight between Rodriguez and a 15-year-old girl, police said.
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Rodriguez was a passenger in the car attempting to drive away as he approached. Gonzalez appeared to shoot at least twice into the vehicle as it drove away next to him, and at least one bullet appeared to hit one of its windows, according to video shared online.
Rodriguez was struck by one of those bullets. She was taken off life support and died on Oct. 5, 2021.
The Long Beach Unified School District fired Gonzalez one day after the fatal shooting. He pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge, for which he awaits trial.
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Omar Rodriguez called the settlement “step one of accountability,” NBC Los Angeles reported.
“I’m really hoping that we get true justice,” he said emotionally on Tuesday. “My sister was robbed of that.”
As the car was driving away, the family’s attorneys say Gonzalez faced no danger.
The lawsuit contended the district was negligent in hiring Gonzalez and failed to properly train him. Gonzalez was hired in January 2021, had passed background checks and completed required training before starting the job, according to the school district’s superintendent, Jill A. Baker.
“The family hopes this settlement can send a message to this district and others to better vet and train their security guards so that this doesn’t happen again,” Carrillo said.
The school district said in a statement that it hadn’t seen or ratified a settlement agreement and could not discuss details.
“Settlements like these include language that there is no admission of liability on the district’s part,” the district said. “However, we again share our sincerest condolences with everyone who was impacted by this terrible event.”
Contributing: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press