Legal Report: California School District to Pay $13 Million After Shooting
Security officer shooting. The family of an 18-year-old woman who was shot and killed by a California school safety officer will receive a $13 million settlement as part of an agreement ending a wrongful death lawsuit against the Long Beach Unified School District.
The victim, Manuela Rodriguez, was shot outside of Millikan High School in Long Beach, California, on 27 September 2021. Her shooter was then-school security officer Eddie Gonzalez.
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The details of the settlement between the family and the school district have not been made public. The agreement was announced by the family’s attorneys.
The settlement does not include an admission of liability from the school district, according to USA Today.
Rodriguez, who at the time had a 5-month-old son, had gotten into an argument with another teenage girl. When Gonzalez approached Rodriguez, she got into the passenger seat of a car, which began driving away. A video posted online shows Gonzalez firing at least two shots at the car as it drove away; one bullet hit Rodriguez in the back of the head. Rodriguez was hospitalized and remained on life support until 5 October.
Gonzalez was terminated from his employment by the district’s board of education a little more than a week after the shooting.
By the end of October 2021, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced that it had filed one charge of second-degree murder against Gonzalez. Gonzalez pleaded not guilty, and the case is currently pending. (People of the State of California v. Eddie Francisco Gonzalez, Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, No. NA118308, 2021)
The district attorney’s decision to file a murder charge “surprised legal experts, who said that while Gonzalez’s actions were clearly excessive and violated generally accepted police practices about shooting at moving vehicles, a manslaughter charge would have been more appropriate,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Drug trafficking. A coordinated effort between Brazil and Europol resulted in 15 arrests, linked to dismantling a criminal group that stretched from Paraguay to Europe. More than 80 million euros worth of assets were seized, as well as more than 17 tons of cocaine.
Active shooter. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $144 million settlement with the families and victims of a 2017 mass shooting that left 26 dead at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. For more details about this story, please visit Security Management’s Today in Security for 6 April 2023.
Law enforcement. A former New Orleans police officer was sentenced to 14 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.
While on duty, Rodney Vicknair encountered the victim, who was reporting that she was sexually assaulted by another man. Vicknair used his position and the girl’s attack as leverage to befriend her over a matter of months and later get her alone in his car. Once she was in his car, he locked the doors and assaulted her, court documents said.
“We are grateful to this young survivor for coming forward, even though she thought no one would believe her,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Had she not been willing to do so, we would not have been able to hold the defendant accountable for his heinous crime. This case should send a strong message to law enforcement officers who sexually abuse victims, particularly children, that they are not above the law and will be held accountable.” (United States v. Vicknair, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 22-cr-00212, 2023)
Security screenings. A U.S. circuit court of appeals recently ruled that employees at an Amazon facility in Oregon were not entitled to compensation for time spent undergoing required security screenings.
The plaintiff in the class action suit accused the company of failing to compensate Amazon employees for the time spent waiting for and undergoing mandatory screenings. The security screenings were performed any time an employee entered or exited the premises.
The court determined that the claim failed because the screenings were not considered “an integral and indispensable part” of an employee’s job. (Lindsey Buero v. Amazon.com Services, Inc., et al., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 20-35633, 2023)
Terrorism. Sayfullo Saipov—who in 2017 drove a truck onto a bike path in New York City and killed eight people—was sentenced to life in prison.
In January 2023, Saipov was convicted of all 28 counts related to the attack and subsequent deaths—including murder in aid of a racketeering enterprise (ISIS)—and faced the death penalty. Sentencing hearings began in February. However, because the jury could not unanimously agree for the death penalty, the statutory sentence became life in prison.
Saipov is expected to serve out his sentence at a federal prison facility in Colorado, with 22 hours every day slated for solitary confinement. (United States of America v. Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 17-cr-722, 2023)
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Organized crime. The governor of Virginia signed HB 1885 into law after it received approval from both houses of the state Congress. The new law classifies organized retail crime (ORC) as a felony in the state, and those convicted under the law face up to 20 years in prison. Anyone involved in the theft of retail merchandise valued at more than $1,000—specifically within a 90-day period and with the intent to sell the stolen merchandise—can be charged with a Class 3 felony.
Foreign technology. U.S. senators introduced the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act in March 2023. The bill, S.686, would give the U.S. Department of Commerce additional powers to review, prevent, and mitigate information communications and technology transactions that impact the U.S. supply chain.
Transportation. Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster announced that tourists to the island nation will no longer be able to rent motorbikes beginning later in 2023.
“We considered it (the decision to impose the ban) according to the security aspect, especially traffic safety, because many foreign tourists are not completely skilled in riding motorbikes and do not have motorbike driving licenses,” said Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno.
Uno added that licenses and drivers’ ability to handle a motorbike have not been properly monitored, according to Indonesian news outlet Tempo.
Authorities are instead encouraging visitors to rent cars or rely on other forms of transportation.
The ban—which would amend the Governor’s Regulation No.28/2020 (specific to tourism management)—would be implemented as a regional regulation, leaving its approval and implementation specific to local governments.
Ransomware. Europol and the U.S. Department of Justice coordinated an international operation against the Genesis Market—a criminal online marketplace that advertised and sold packages of account access credentials, such as usernames and passwords for emails, bank accounts, and social media. The marketplace was also a key enabler of ransomware.
Workplace safety. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Dollar General with 111 workplace safety violations since January 2017, levying more than $15.5 million in penalties and fines. Issues cited by OSHA included obstructed fire exits, boxes of merchandise cluttering aisles or stacked dangerously high, and failures to rectify identifies hazards.
Also of Interest
Security Management reports on instances where security incidents and interests cross paths with the courts, legislation, and regulatory agencies. The following are developing stories of potential significance.
Active shooter. Robert Crimo, Jr., father of the alleged Highland Park shooter, was charged with seven counts of reckless conduct. Crimo sponsored his son’s application to own a firearm, despite the alleged knowledge that his son had expressed an interest in violence and suicide.
Domestic terrorism. After a crowd attacked an Atlanta police facility in Georgia, 35 people were arrested, some charged with domestic terrorism, according to the Atlanta Police Department.
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Drug trafficking. A high-ranking member the Sinaloa Cartel pled guilty to international cocaine trafficking. Sentencing is scheduled for 15 June, and the charges that Jaime Antonio Mandujano Eudave faces carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, according to the DOJ.
Fire safety. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) filed a lawsuit against the National Fire Protection Association. The IAFF is asking that PFAS chemicals be removed from protective gear that emergency responders use in their gear. PFAS chemicals have been linked to incidents of cancer.
Firearms. In March 2023, a federal appeals court upheld a Florida law that raised the minimum age to purchase a gun in the state from 18 to 21. That same month, state legislators introduced a bill that, if approved, would lower the minimum age back to 18.
Fraud. Two Florida resorts agreed to a $325,000 settlement over allegations of violating the False Claims Act relating to the Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness program. The program was created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020.
Insurrection. Law enforcement in Vietnam arrested and charged someone who was allegedly using Facebook to “overthrow the state,” specifically by sharing materials that defamed ruling Communist Party leaders.
Intellectual property. A U.S. district judge ruled a lawsuit against Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc, will proceed in a Boston federal court. The lawsuit alleges that Meta stole confidential information from an artificial-intelligence startup, Neural Magic Inc—specifically algorithms that allow AI systems to process data faster than before.
Mass protests. Philadelphia officials announced a $9.25 million settlement, closing several lawsuits from hundreds of plaintiffs over law enforcement response to 2020 protests rising from the killing of George Floyd.
Money laundering. A former managing director for Goldman Sachs received a 10-year prison sentence for his involvement in a $2.7-billion bribery and money laundering scheme. Roger Ng and his co-conspirators were convicted of laundering misappropriated funds that were embezzled from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014, according to the DOJ.
Sex trafficking. Meta and owner Mark Zuckerberg were accused in a lawsuit of failing to address incidents of sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation on Meta’s social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.
Tax fraud. After receiving a guilty verdict on multiple charges, including criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records, a Manhattan judge ordered the Trump Organization to pay $1.6 million total in fines. Subsidiary companies Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp were convicted of 17 counts, including conspiracy and criminal tax fraud over the course of 15 years.
Toxic chemical spill. The DOJ filed a civil suit against Norfolk Southern Railway following the derailment of one of its trains near East Palestine, Ohio, in February. The train, which was carrying toxic chemicals, burst into flames. The government is seeking penalties and injunctive relief for the resulting spill under the Clean Water Act and liability damages under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, according to the DOJ.
Utilities. A man faces charges of destroying two Pacific Gas & Electric transformers. The blasts used to destroy the infrastructure resulted in power outages for thousands of customers in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.
Abortion trafficking. Idaho recently enacted a bill that would criminalize “abortion trafficking,” limiting minors’ ability to travel across state lines for abortion care without parental consent.
Flight risk. U.S. lawmakers recently made a new legislative push to bar passengers previously fined or convicted of serious physical violence on commercial flights.
Rail safety. U.S. senators introduced S.576 (Railway Safety Act of 2023), which proposes safety reforms along railways. The bill was introduced by bipartisan senators from Ohio after the derailment that resulted in a massive chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio.
Racial discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it was suing energy giant ExxonMobil after several nooses were found at a Louisiana complex, allegedly contributing to a racially hostile work environment.