Evelyn Rodriguez, the mother of a teenage girl who was brutally murdered by MS-13 gang members two years ago, was struck by a vehicle at her daughter’s memorial site Sept. 14, Suffolk County police in New York confirmed.
Police said Rodriguez was involved in a dispute with the driver of a vehicle regarding the placement of a memorial dedicated to her daughter and her daughter’s friend.
“During the dispute, the driver … attempted to leave the scene and her vehicle struck Rodriguez,” Suffolk County police said in a statement. The driver stayed and called 911, police confirmed.
Rodriguez, 50, later died from her injuries, and the Suffolk County homicide squad is investigating. No charges have been laid as of Sept. 16.
Suffolk County and neighboring Nassau County, on Long Island, New York, both suffer from MS-13 violence.
Rodriguez had worked tirelessly against gang violence after her 16-year-old daughter, Kayla Cuevas, was killed alongside her best friend, Nisa Mickens, 15, on Sept. 13, 2016.
The two girls were out walking when a group of MS-13 members jumped out of a car and used machetes and baseball bats to kill them.
One of the gang’s mottos is “Mata, viola, controla” (“Kill, rape, control”).
President Donald Trump wrote his condolences on Twitter on Sept. 14: “My thoughts and prayers are with Evelyn Rodriguez this evening, along with her family and friends.”
In January, the president brought the parents of the two girls to his State of the Union address. He introduced Kayla’s parents, Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, as well as Nisa’s parents, Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens.
“Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors—and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school,” said Trump.
“In September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown.”
Trump has called the unaccompanied minor and family unit program “one of the largest loopholes in U.S. border security.”
‘My World Crumbled’
MS-13 members and Kayla had had a run-in at school, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York.
Afterward, the MS-13 members vowed to seek revenge against Kayla, the statement reads.
On Sept. 13, 2016, several members of MS-13’s Sailors clique had agreed to drive around Brentwood, New York, in different vehicles and hunt for rival gang members to kill, prosecutors said.
Four gang members in one of the cars saw Kayla and Nisa out walking. They called the leaders of the Sailors clique, who authorized them to kill the two girls. So they did. And then they drove away.
Police found Nisa’s body that night and Kayla’s body the next day.
In an interview with The Epoch Times on March 28, 2017, Rodriguez said she got the dreaded phone call at 6:02 p.m.
“And that’s when my world crumbled,” Rodriguez said. “She was going to become someone, for sure. And it was stolen from her.”
Rodriguez poured herself into making sure Brentwood was a safer place. She advocated for anti-gang programs at Brentwood High School and sued the district for not protecting Kayla from MS-13 bullying.
“I’m fighting for her—for Kayla. You’re never going to forget who Kayla Cuevas or Nisa Mickens were,” Rodriguez said.
Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said he is “truly heartbroken” over Rodriguez’s 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 in a statement Sept 14.
“Evelyn is one of the strongest people I have ever met in my life. I am proud to have worked with her and even more proud to have called her a friend. I know I speak for everyone who knew Evelyn in saying that we are truly heartbroken over her loss.”
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), who was on his way to the memorial site when he heard the news, also sent out his condolences. “Prayers for Evelyn Rodriguez the mother of MS-13 victim Kayla Cuevas. Evelyn was struck by vehicle this afternoon at her daughter’s memorial,” he wrote on Twitter, adding another tweet shortly afterwards: “Evelyn Rodriguez has passed away. Terrible news. RIP.”
King invited Rodriguez and Mickens to testify at a June 20, 2017, congressional hearing on Long Island to examine the ways MS-13 uses the unaccompanied minor program to populate its ranks.
“They’re kids killing kids. That needs to be stopped,” Rodriguez said in an emotional testimony. “We cannot let our kids be afraid to go to school. Because this is where it all originates—in school.”
King, chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, called MS-13 a “morally depraved transnational, murderous gang which terrorizes innocent people,” in his opening statement.
“It is vital that we examine the threat posed by MS-13 and the extent to which this violent gang is able to exploit U.S. immigration programs and circumvent border security measures to gain entry into the United States,” he said.
Two dozen members of the MS-13 gang were charged in a New York federal district court with the girls’ murders, along with 13 other murders on Long Island, according to a June 7 report by the Department of Justice.
Gang Violence Prevention
Trump issued a proclamation on Sept. 14 for National Gang Violence Prevention Week, from Sept. 16 through Sept. 22.
“Horrendous, criminal acts have become increasingly common in our cities and towns where the notorious and savage MS-13 and other criminal gangs operate,” Trump said.
“I have instructed my administration to aggressively address transnational criminal organizations, especially MS-13. Organized and led from Central America, MS-13 has entrenched its claws in communities from the East Coast to the West Coast.”
Over the past year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested more than 4,800 criminal gang members, including nearly 796 arrests related to MS-13, Trump said.
“While this progress is promising, the scourge of MS-13 and other transnational criminal organizations will not abate until our nation’s borders are fully secure and those who seek to harm us are no longer able to exploit loopholes in our broken immigration laws.”