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Vigil for anti-gang activist Evelyn Rodriguez seeks charges for driver who struck her

Authorities say the investigation into Rodriguez's death is continuing.

About 150 friends and supporters of Evelyn Rodriguez, killed Sept. 14 near a memorial set up for her slain daughter, called on authorities to file criminal charges against the motorist who fatally struck the anti-gang activist with an SUV last week in Brentwood. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

About 150 friends and supporters of Evelyn Rodriguez, killed Sept. 14 near a memorial set up for her slain daughter, called on authorities to file criminal charges against the motorist who fatally struck the anti-gang activist with an SUV last week in Brentwood.

Many who attended Sunday night's vigil, held at the spot where Rodriguez was struck, expressed frustration that Suffolk police have not released details about the investigation or the name of the woman who hit and killed Rodriguez, 50. The crash took place just after a dispute on Ray Court near a memorial to mark two years since Rodriguez's  daughter Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Kayla’s friend Nisa Mickens, 15, were allegedly killed by MS-13.

“Tell us what is going on,” one speaker at the vigil, Noel Vega of the Punisherz Ryderz motorcycle club, said. “We are feeling ignored. We are being ignored. We’ve been ignored in this community long enough.”

Organizers passed around a petition that called for the termination of a Brentwood schools employee who posted what district officials called “insensitive” comments about Rodriguez on social media.

Another petition, to be sent to Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, demanded that criminal charges be filed against the motorist.

Suffolk police said the investigation into Rodriguez’s death was continuing and declined further comment. Four police officers stood nearby while the vigil took place but did not interfere.

“The investigation is ongoing and all appropriate steps will be taken,” a spokeswoman for Sini said.

Many of those who attended the vigil wore T-shirts that said "In Loving Memory, Evelyn Rodriguez." Others held signs with slogans such as "Justice for Evelyn." Many in the crowd left handprints, with green and purple paint, on a banner for Rodriguez.

The murders transformed Rodriguez and Elizabeth Alvarado, Nisa’s mother, into activists determined to protect other children and thrust Brentwood into the national conversation on gang violence. The women and the girls' fathers, Freddy Cuevas and Rob Mickens, were White House guests at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in January and met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Rodriguez, friends and supporters said, became a tireless advocate who pushed government officials at all levels to fund anti-gang and after-school programs in Brentwood, Central Islip and other at-risk Suffolk communities.

Some speakers at the vigil urged those in attendance to continue Rodriguez’s work by pushing elected officials to fund those programs at school board and local government meetings.

“Decisons are being made without us if we don’t show up,” said Tony Cruz, a Brentwood native and a friend of the Cuevas family.

Carlos Boles of Islip said Rodriguez had transformed her grief into action for Brentwood.

"It seems like the people who care are always the ones who die," Boles said.

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