WHAT WE KNOW…
- Evelyn Rodriguez was the outspoken mother of a daughter killed by alleged MS-13 gang members.
- She was a featured guest of President Donald Trump at his State of the Union address.
- A dispute over a memorial for her daughter led to her being fatally run over.
- Police say the driver of the vehicle involved is cooperating with police and the death is not considered gang-related.
BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Evelyn Rodriguez, the mother of a Long Island teen who was killed by alleged MS-13 gang members, has died after she was struck by a vehicle at her daughter’s memorial site.
Evelyn Rodriguez’s daughter, Kayla Cuevas, was murdered not far from their Brentwood home in September 2016. Four alleged members of the MS-13 gang have been charged with killing Kayla and her 15-year-old friend Nisa Mickens.
Suffolk County Police Homicide Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer said Rodriguez got into an argument shortly after 4 p.m. with a person related to a resident living on Ray Court in Brentwood regarding the placement of a memorial gathering which was to happen Friday evening in memory of Kayla Cuevas.
The person attempted to drive away in a 2016 Nissan Rouge and stuck Rodriguez, killing her. She was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where she was pronounced dead.
A news crew who were on the scene filmed the fatal crash, and police are reviewing their video footage as part of the investigation.
The driver of the car stopped, called 911 and is cooperating with police, said Beyrer.
“We want to stress that this is not gang related,” said Beyrer. “The name of the driver is not being released at this time.”
Rep. Peter King said was just leaving his house to attend the memorial service and meet with Rodriguez.
“We’ve been talking to everyone all week about it,” said King. “I get a call from her friend who was with her and said there has been a horrible accident and that Evelyn has been run over by a car and was in very bad shape.
“It is beyond belief that a mother could have a daughter machete to death, and on the second anniversary of her daughter’s death, it hurts me to have this tragic event at her daughter’s memorial,” he said.
The congressman who represents New York’s 2nd District on Long Island praised Rodriguez was a champion in the fight against MS-13.
“I don’t know how much harder it come to one woman to cost her life. She is one of the most courageous people I’ve ever met,” he said. “I became close with her, we talk often, she’s met the POTUS and the Attorney General – she was dedicated to stopping MS-13.
Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini also issued a heartfelt statement about Rodriguez on Friday night.
“Evelyn Rodriguez endured unspeakable tragedy when her daughter was murdered two years ago. As a parent, I cannot imagine functioning after the loss of a child, but Evelyn was able to turn that tragedy into a mission for good. She harvested her grief and used it as a catalyst for positive change on behalf of her community and on behalf of this country. 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. 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.”
President Trump tweeted about Rodriguez Friday, “My thoughts and prayers are with Evelyn Rodriguez this evening, along with her family and friends. #RIPEvelyn”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also released a statement praising Rodriguez.
“In the wake of the unspeakable tragedy of her daughter’s death, Evelyn showed tremendous courage by dedicating herself to the disruption of gang violence throughout her community,” Cuomo said. “As she stood by my side as we fought back against MS-13, I stand with her family tonight.”
“I first met Evelyn while I was with the FBI and was immediately impressed by her strength and perseverance,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work in partnership with her when I joined the Suffolk County Police Department. My thoughts are prayers are with her family during this heartbreaking time.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone issued a statement, as well.
“Suffolk County mourns the loss of Evelyn Rodriguez, a mother who lost her beautiful daughter Kayla, at the hands of the vicious and cowardly gang MS-13. From the moment I met Evelyn, I was struck by her incredible courage. In the aftermath of her unimaginable loss she was a pillar of strength for her family and the community,” he wrote. “Evelyn was courageous, loving, selfless and she never stopped fighting for her daughter and for every child in the community. On behalf of all our residents my thoughts and prayers are with Evelyn’s family, friends and loved ones during this extraordinarily difficult time.”
As did Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Chief of Department Stuart Cameron.
“The death of Evelyn Rodriguez is a true loss for the Suffolk County Police Department,” they wrote. “Evelyn turned the tragic loss of her daughter into a driving force to become an outspoken voice against gang violence.”
“I first met Evelyn while I was with the FBI and was immediately impressed by her strength and perseverance,” Hart added. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work in partnership with her when I joined the Suffolk County Police Department. My thoughts are prayers are with her family during this heartbreaking time.”