Watch CBS News

Jury deadlocks in murder trial of former Long Beach Unified safety officer

Mistrial declared after jury deadlocks in murder trial of ex-LBUSD safety officer
Mistrial declared after jury deadlocks in murder trial of ex-LBUSD safety officer 01:29

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

The decision came after two days of deliberations, in which the jury's foreperson told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard M. Goul that they were split 7-5, with the majority voting in favor of convicting Eddie Gonzalez of second-degree murder. The other five are said to have instead opted for voluntary manslaughter and an acquittal on the more serious offense of second-degree murder. 

Jury members were dismissed by the judge after the foreperson told him that no further deliberations would be helpful in reaching a decision.

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

She died days after being taken off of 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 an infant son, who was inside of the car with her boyfriend and his teenage brother. She was hit in the head by one of the bullets, which had entered the car through the rear passenger window. 

Related: Mona Rodriguez, Young Mother Shot By Long Beach School Officer, Donates Organs, Officer Accused Of Shooting Her Fired

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

The foreperson told reporters later that some fellow jurors were "focused on the idea of lag time," which was brought up during the defense's case to explain the difference in time between when a law enforcement officer perceives a threat ant the time that a shot is fired. She told them that she was "absolutely" convinced that Gonzalez was guilty of murder. 

A prosecutor told the jury last Friday that Gonzalez had tried to "play police officer" which resulted in a series of bad decision that led to the deadly incident, in which he fired two shots at the back of the fleeing vehicle. The defendant's attorney argued that his client acted in self-defense out of fear that he was going to be run over by the car Rodriguez was a passenger in.

Deputy District Attorney Lee Orquiola said that Gonzalez "responded to youthful disobedience with deadly force" and "unjustifiably" fired two shots at the car after a fight between Rodriguez and a teenage female student at Millikan High, in a closing argument. 

He says that Gonzalez had moved out of the way of the car and was "not in danger at all" of being hit when he fired the first shot, nd that he "did not act in lawful self-defense." He told jurors that Gonzalez was "trying to kill the driver of that vehicle."

The prosecutor also noted that a teenage high school student, who shot one of the cell phones videos used in the investigation, that the safety officer was 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 hold in the car's rear passenger window and a police trajectory rod that had gone through the front passenger's head rest. He said that it all happened "because he tried to play police officer" and that "he's not a police officer."

Gonzalez's lawyer countered by saying that the case was about what happened within about one and a half seconds after the car's tires were heard screeching, shown in a series of videos from the day. 

He said that prosecutors had yet to prove his client formed the intent during that time to kill someone before opening fire, telling them that it "isn't about hindsight" or "slow motion."

Michael Schwartz, defense attorney, urged jurors to acquit Gonzalez, telling them that "true justice" demands a verdict. 

He said that his client shot to "stop the threat of deadly force" and noted that two witnesses testified that they believed Gonzalez was in danger of being hit by the car if he hadn't moved. 

"A tragedy took place, not a crime," Schwartz told jurors. "It takes longer to say the words."

He said the prosecution has to prove that the shooting was not done in self-defense, and said they "haven't done it."

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

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

The lawsuit alleged that Gonzalez did not pass 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 compounded matters by negligently training him.

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

"I personally don't really care about the settlement. It's not bringing back my sister," Rodriguez's brother, Omar, said last year. "I don't want anybody else to go through this pain."

Gonzalez, 54, remains free on bond while awaiting trial and is due back in court on July 17 for a pretrial hearing. He did not testify in his own defense. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.