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Jury deadlocked in murder trial of former Long Beach Unified public safety officer

A mistrial was declared in a murder case involving a former Long Beach Unified School District safety officer charged with murder for shooting an 18-year-old woman in 2021 after jurors deadlocked Tuesday.

The decision came after two days of deliberation, during which the jury foreman told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard M. Goul that they were split 7-5, with the majority voting to convict Eddie Gonzalez of manslaughter. The other five would have instead opted for voluntary manslaughter and acquittal for the more serious crime of first-degree murder.

Jurors were dismissed by the judge after the foreman told him that further deliberation would not help reach a decision.

The shooting happened on September 27, 2021 about a block from Millikan High School in Long Beach, when Gonzalez fatally shot 18-year-old Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez.” She was struck by gunfire while sitting in the front passenger seat of an Infiniti driven by her boyfriend in a parking lot near Spring Street and Palo Verde Avenue.

She died days after being taken off life support and Gonzalez was arrested about a month later. He was fired by the district about a week after the shooting.

She was the mother of a young son who was in the car with her boyfriend and his teenage brother. She was hit in the head by one of the bullets, which entered the car through the rear passenger window.

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Related: Mona Rodriguez, Young Mother Shot by Long Beach School Cop, Donates Organs, Cop Accused of Shooting Her Fired

Jurors were reportedly instructed that they could consider the lower count of voluntary manslaughter, but only if Gonzalez was acquitted of second-degree murder.

The foreman later told reporters that some fellow jurors were “focused on the idea of ​​lag time,” which was raised during the defense’s case to explain the difference in time between when a law enforcement officer perceives a threat and it moment when a shot is fired. dismissed. She told them she was “absolutely” convinced Gonzalez was guilty of murder.

A prosecutor told the jury last Friday that Gonzalez had tried to “play cop,” which resulted in a series of poor decisions that led to the fatal incident in which he fired two shots into the rear of the fleeing vehicle. The suspect’s attorney argued that his client acted in self-defense out of fear that he would be run over by the car Rodriguez was in.

Deputy District Attorney Lee Orquiola said Gonzalez “reacted with deadly force to youthful disobedience” and “unjustified” fired two shots at the car after a fight between Rodriguez and a teenage female student at Millikan High, in closing arguments.

He says Gonzalez had moved out of the way of the car and was “in no danger at all” of being hit when he fired the first shot, and that he “was not acting in lawful self-defense.” He told jurors that Gonzalez “tried to kill the driver of that vehicle.”

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The prosecutor also noted that a high school student, who shot one of the cell phone videos used in the investigation, said the security guard was sitting at the side of the car when the first shot was fired, and at the back of the car when the second shot was fired.

He showed jurors the aftermath of the shooting, including a bullet receptacle in the rear window of the car and a police trajectory rod that had gone through the front passenger’s headrest. He said it all happened “because he was trying to play a cop” and that “he’s not a cop.”

Gonzalez’s attorney responded by saying the case was about what happened within about a second and a half of hearing the car’s tires screech, as seen in a series of videos from that day.

He said prosecutors still had to prove his client intended to kill someone at the time before opening fire, telling them it was “not about hindsight” or “slow motion.”

Defense attorney Michael Schwartz urged jurors to acquit Gonzalez, telling them that “true justice” requires a verdict.

He said his client shot to “stop the threat of deadly force” and noted that two witnesses testified they believed Gonzalez was in danger of being struck by the car if he had not moved.

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“A tragedy occurred, not a crime,” Schwartz told jurors. “It takes longer to say the words.”

He said the prosecution must prove the shooting was not done in self-defense, saying they “didn’t do that.”

Jurors were repeatedly shown three videos during the trial, one of which was surveillance video of the scene, and two of which were cell phone footage from bystanders.

Rodriguez’s family announced they had reached a $13 million settlement for their lawsuit against the school district in connection with her death. .

The lawsuit alleged that Gonzalez failed his probation when he tried to be hired by the Los Alamitos and Sierra Madre police departments, but he was still hired by the LBUSD, which made matters worse by negligently training him.

The family’s attorneys also argued that Gonzalez violated district policy by shooting at a fleeing person in a moving vehicle.

“Personally, I don’t really care about the settlement. It doesn’t bring my sister back,” Rodriguez’s brother Omar said last year. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this pain.”

Gonzalez, 54, remains out on bail pending trial and is due back in court for a hearing on July 17. He did not testify in his own defense.

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