Drive for answers: Grievers push police to explain why girl’s killer still free after deadly hit-and-run

Drive for answers: Grievers push police to explain why girl’s killer still free after deadly hit-and-run
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba

They’re still in the dark.

Demonstrators swarmed the 83rd Precinct station house on Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick on July 5, demanding authorities explain why the hit-and-run driver who fatally ran over a 4-year-old on a nearby sidewalk on June 24 has yet to be arrested or charged, even after cops stopped her fleeing the scene.

Officers, who addressed crowd members for the first time since they began daily marches through the neighborhood 12 days before, said the case now rests with prosecutors, and that the driver may still be cuffed despite previous Police Department claims that she will likely not be arrested due to lack of evidence and probable cause.

“What happened was horrible. It takes time. It doesn’t mean that the lady is free — she’s entitled to due process,” said 83rd Precinct Executive Officer Capt. Hugo Dominguez, whose comments made in Spanish were translated into English by staff at this newspaper.

The group — which included family and friends of young Luz Gonzalez, whose first name means “light” in Spanish — began their demonstration at the Clean City Laundry Center on the corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Hart Street, where, more than two weeks ago, motorist Jeanette Maria backed out of what the Department of Buildings on July 6 ruled an illegal parking spot perpendicular to Hart Street, turned, and drove into Gonzalez and her mother, killing the girl and injuring her parent as the mom bent down to tie the youngster’s shoe.

Cops stopped Maria shortly afterward on Hart Street between Irving and Knickerbocker avenues, but let her go, prompting Gonzalez’s relatives and their advocates to stage regular marches through the neighborhood, the latest of which featured participants chanting “justice for Luz” in Spanish, and waving flags of Mexico — Gonzalez and her parents’ native country.

Video footage of the horrific incident shows Maria’s car visibly bounce up and down while she rolled over the mother and daughter — proof that it is impossible for her to claim she didn’t know she hit the pair, according to one demonstrator, who argued his 20 years of experience driving a cab makes him knowledgeable about what can be felt while behind the wheel.

“That excuse is really stupid. As soon as you hit a pothole, you feel the car stumble,” said Jimmy Orellana, who lives in Bushwick.

Attendees also pressed authorities about claims spreading on social media that allege Maria’s brother is a police officer, and that she threatened to call immigration officials on the Mexican family if they pressed charges.

Neither Police Department nor district attorney’s office reps responded to multiple requests for comment on the allegations that Maria is related to one of New York’s Finest.

But cops from the 83rd Precinct told the demonstrators that those claims are irrelevant to the investigation, and that authorities assured Gonzalez’s family of their safety, regardless of their immigration status, immediately after the tragedy occurred.

“After it happened I met with [Gonzalez’s mom] with others that spoke Spanish. She came asking for help, and I said whatever you need, we are here to help,” Sgt. Anna Serrano told the crowd, speaking in English. “I told her, ‘You are in a safe place here. The NYPD policy is we do not enforce immigration laws.’ ”

Meanwhile, the laundromat’s owner must now remove the facility’s parking lot following the Buildings Department’s ruling, according to a rep, who said that barriers must also be installed to block vehicle access to the lot, and that the agency may crack down on the business even more pending further inspections.

— with Julio Tumbaco

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Stonger together: Yoe Vargas and Geovanna Jerez hold up signs at the rally.
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba