BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (AP) — A New York mother recognized by President Donald Trump at the State of the Union after MS-13 gang members allegedly killed her daughter was struck and killed Friday by a car at the girl's memorial.
Evelyn Rodriguez was hit around 4 p.m. in Brentwood and died at a hospital, police said. U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., says it happened about an hour before a planned memorial for her daughter, Kayla Cuevas.
Police said homicide detectives are investigating. They did not immediately provide details on the driver of the car and would not say if Rodriguez was intentionally struck.
Rodriguez spoke out against the gang and the local school district after Cuevas, 16, and her friend, Nisa Mickens, 15, were attacked with machetes and baseball bats in the Long Island community that has become the epicenter in the fight against MS-13 violence. Cuevas' body was found on Sept. 14, 2016.
The girls' alleged killers, who were arrested along with about a dozen other alleged MS-13 members, are facing murder charges that could result in the death penalty.
MS-13, or the Mara Salvatrucha, is blamed for dozens of killings on Long Island since 2016. Trump has blamed the violence on lax immigration policies.
Prosecutors say Kayla was targeted because of ongoing disputes with gang members at her school. They say Nisa was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Rodriguez filed a $110 million lawsuit last December against the Brentwood School District, claiming it ignored warnings that MS-13 members were threatening Kayla.
Rodriguez said that employees failed to act when told that the girl was being threatened. The lawsuit says the bullying went on for two years before the teenager was killed.
Rodriguez told a House subcommittee last year that residents were living in fear and were afraid to let their kids play outside.
"The MS-13 gang is so unpredictable you just don't know who is who with them," Rodriguez said. "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."
MS-13 is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily immigrants from Central America.
It has a stronghold in Los Angeles, where it emerged in the 1980s as a neighborhood street gang, and is suspected of violence in cities and suburbs across the United States.
Cuevas and Mickens' deaths put a sharpened focus on what had already been a spate of gang violence on Long Island. MS-13 has been blamed for more than two dozen slayings across a wide swath of the island since January 2016.
Last month, an MS-13 member pleaded guilty to participating in the brutal massacre of four young men in nearby Central Islip.
Josue Portillo, 17, admitted to planning the April 2017 killings with other MS-13 defendants because he said they believed the four were rival gang members, prosecutors said. The victims were lured to a park and attacked with machetes, knives and clubs.