Mother of slain girl killed at daugh­ter’s me­mo­rial

Times Colonist - - Canada / World -

NEW YORK — A griev­ing New York mother rec­og­nized by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at the State of the Union in his cam­paign against deadly MS-13 gang vi­o­lence was struck by an SUV and killed at her slain daugh­ter’s me­mo­rial site af­ter a heated con­fronta­tion with the driver.

Eve­lyn Ro­driguez was hit about 4 p.m. Fri­day in Brent­wood, near where her 16-year-old daugh­ter Kayla Cuevas’ body was found beaten and slashed two years ago to the day, po­lice said. Cuevas’ friend, 15-year-old Nisa Mick­ens was also killed.

The com­mu­nity is the epi­cen­tre of the fight against MS-13 vi­o­lence on Long Is­land.

Ro­driguez and the driver, a rel­a­tive of a per­son who lives near the me­mo­rial, were ar­gu­ing over its place­ment, po­lice said. Ro­driguez, 50, and an­other per­son were seen stand­ing in the street and yelling at the driver of the SUV be­fore the ve­hi­cle sped for­ward and struck her.

News 12 Long Is­land aired video of the ar­gu­ment but didn’t show Ro­driguez be­ing hit.

The driver, who wasn’t hurt, re­mained at the scene and called 911, po­lice said. They have not re­leased her name.

Trump said in a tweet: “My thoughts and prayers are with Eve­lyn Ro­driguez this evening, along with her fam­ily and friends. #RIPEve­lyn.”

So far, there is no ev­i­dence of ties to MS-13 or any in­di­ca­tion that the crash was ret­ri­bu­tion by the gang, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial told the As­so­ci­ated Press. The of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­licly and spoke to the AP on con­di­tion of anonymity.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, a New York Repub­li­can, who had worked with Ro­driguez on a cam­paign ad, was on his way to a vigil at the me­mo­rial site when he learned that she had been hit. He said it hap­pened about an hour be­fore a ser­vice was sched­uled to be­gin.

“It’s a tragedy be­yond be­lief,” King told the AP. “Ev­ery­one is in shock. What more could hap­pen to one woman?”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised Ro­driguez’s “tremen­dous courage” and di­rected the State Po­lice to as­sist the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her death.

Suf­folk County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Tim Sini, who was po­lice com­mis­sioner when Cuevas and Mick­ens were killed, said Ro­driguez was “one of the strong­est peo­ple” he has ever met and that he was heart­bro­ken over her death.

“She was a fierce ad­vo­cate for her home­town of Brent­wood and was fear­less in her fight to put an end to the vi­o­lence caused by MS-13 to en­sure that other par­ents never have to en­dure the pain she suf­fered,” Sini said.

Ro­driguez spoke out against the gang and the lo­cal school dis­trict af­ter Cuevas and Mick­ens were at­tacked with ma­chetes and base­ball bats. Mick­ens’ body was found near an ele­men­tary school on Sept. 13, 2016. Cuevas’ body was found the next day, a few hun­dred feet away.

The girls’ al­leged killers, who were ar­rested along with about a dozen other sus­pected MS-13 mem­bers, are fac­ing mur­der charges that could re­sult in the death penalty.

MS-13, or the Mara Sal­va­trucha, is blamed for dozens of killings on Long Is­land since 2016. Trump has blamed the vi­o­lence on lax im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

Ro­driguez stood with Cuevas’ fa­ther, Freddy Cuevas, and Mick­ens’ par­ents at the State of the Union in Jan­uary and sat along­side Trump and King at a gang vi­o­lence fo­rum in May on Long Is­land.

“My daugh­ter, Kayla, was a beau­ti­ful girl,” Ro­driguez said at the fo­rum.

“She had dreams, and they took that away from her. That’s not right. And how th­ese kids were mur­dered, tor­tured, is un­ac­cept­able.”

Pros­e­cu­tors say Kayla was tar­geted be­cause of on­go­ing dis­putes with gang mem­bers at her school. They say Nisa was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ro­driguez filed a $110-mil­lion US law­suit last De­cem­ber against the Brent­wood School Dis­trict, claim­ing it ig­nored warn­ings that MS-13 mem­bers were threat­en­ing Kayla.

Ro­driguez said that em­ploy­ees failed to act when told that the girl was be­ing threat­ened. The law­suit says the bul­ly­ing went on for two years be­fore the teenager was killed.

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