A young mother got the lifesaving kidney she needed after sending a “Hail Mary” Facebook message to the family of Mona Rodriguez, the 18-year-old woman who was shot by a school safety officer in Long Beach and subsequently taken off life support.
Edith Gonzalez, 33, was beyond grateful Friday as she sat in her hospital room at UCLA with a photo at her bedside of a woman she never met, but will never forget.
“It says, ‘My angel. Justice for Mona,’” Gonzalez said.
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Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez, who was the mother of a 5-month-old, has received nationwide focus after she was shot in the head in September by a now-fired school safety officer in Long Beach who was investigating a fight she was involved in.
The officer is seen on video firing into the vehicle as the car drives away from a parking lot near Millikan High School. Rodriguez was in the passenger seat.
Relatives said she was shot in the head. In a statement Thursday, Long Beach police said she was shot in the upper body.
According to police, the school safety officer was driving in the area near Millikan High School when he observed Rodriguez involved in an altercation with a 15-year-old girl in the street. Investigators determined that a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy were also involved in the dispute.
When Rodriguez, the man and the boy attempted to leave the scene in a car, the school safety officer approached the car and fired into the vehicle as the driver was pulling away, striking Rodriguez inside, police said.
Video of the shooting posted online appeared to show the officer firing at least two shots through a passenger-side window into the car.
Rodriguez was taken off life support, and her family made the decision to donate her organs. The family attorney said her organs were used to save five lives, including Gonzalez.
“I call my daughter Mona as well. Her nickname is Mona. Her favorite color is purple just like Mona (Rodriguez),” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. When she heard Rodriguez’s family would be donating her organs, she made a last-ditch effort, and messaged the family. In part it read: “I wish I’m lucky to be able to get a beautiful angel like Manuela to donate me her kidney.”
Not only did the family grant her wish, Gonzalez said Rodriguez, a perfect stranger, was a perfect match.
“She was a young beautiful girl that deserves to be here longer,” Gonzalez said. “We got a little bit of her to be able to live longer… Unfortunately she’s not here for her son and I think that’s probably something that hurts the most.”
Rodriguez’s family says donating her organs and helping people is what Mona would have wanted.
They vow to continue to fight for justice, calling for the arrest of the officer who shot her.
In Long Beach this week, community members took to the streets calling for the LA district attorney to file charges against the officer, who is now a focus of a homicide investigation.
The school safety officer who fired the shots, Eddie Gonzalez, was fired Wednesday, according to the district.
The Long Beach Unified School District said the officer’s conduct violated district policy, and his termination was the “right thing to do.” The district also sent condolences to the family of Mona Rodriguez.
The district went on to say the use of force policy dictates that an officer will not fire on a fleeing person, nor fire into a vehicle, and that using a weapon should be a last line of defense.
Gonzalez hopes Rodriguez’s family and friends can find comfort knowing a part of her lives on.
“I’m so glad she got to be my angel. This is very important to me and my family. They’re all so thankful, and we all pray for her and her family as well,” Gonzalez said.