Evelyn Rodriguez, a 50-year-old grieving mother at the memorial site for her daughter, who had been brutally killed by alleged MS-13 gang members, was struck and killed by an SUV on Friday.
The Associated Press reports that today's incident occurred two years to the day that the body of Rodriguez's daughter, 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas, was found beaten and slashed in Brentwood, Long Island. Cuevas's friend, 15-year-old Nisa Mickens, was also killed. The two girls were attacked with baseball bats and machetes by alleged gang members. Prosecutors say Cuevas was singled out by the gang because of ongoing disputes at her high school, and Mickens was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Rodriguez was recognized by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address in January, as the president has campaigned repeatedly against the violent MS-13 gang. Brentwood is at the epicenter of the gang's violence on Long Island. MS-13 has been blamed for dozens of killings on Long Island since 2016, and President Trump says the ongoing violence is due to current immigration policies.
President Trump tweeted his condolences to the family of Rodriguez earlier this evening, posting, "My thoughts and prayers are with Evelyn Rodriguez this evening, along with her family and friends. #RIPEvelyn."Rodriguez and another individual got into a heated argument with the driver of the SUV. The New York Post reports that the argument with the driver stemmed from the removal of a memorial for the two girls, which was in front of a house near the memorial site. The driver is related to someone that lives at that house.
The confrontation was captured and aired on video by News 12 Long Island, but the station did not show Rodriguez being struck. The driver remained on the scene and called 911, according to police. Law enforcement says there are no signs of gang retribution or any ties to MS-13 in today's incident, and the Suffolk County Police homicide squad is investigating Rodriguez's death.
The alleged killers are currently facing murder charges, and prosecutors may seek the death penalty. Last December, Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against the Brentwood School District for $110 million, saying that the school refused to take action to protect her daughter, who had been bullied by the gang for over two years before she was killed.
In testimony before a House subcommittee last year, Rodriguez said that residents in her community were so terrified by MS-13 that they refused to let their children play outside.
"The MS-13 gang is so unpredictable you just don't know who is who with them. MS-13 is a new breed of murderers, they are children, kids killing kids, and as they continue to grow, so does their techniques of recruiting helpless kids into their wicked actions."At a forum in Long Island in May, Rodriguez sat alongside President Trump and U.S. Representative Peter King, and spoke about her daughter.
"My daughter, Kayla, was a beautiful girl. She had dreams, and they took that away from her. That's not right. And how these kids were murdered, tortured, is unacceptable."