The parents of Luz Gonzales, the 4-year-old girl who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Bushwick in June, did not attend her funeral in her native Mexico out of fear of being unable to return to the United States, the Brooklyn Paper reports. Her parents are working to apply for green cards, and were worried about the increase in deportations, according to Luz Gonzales' godmother. Her body was flown to Mexico alone and her burial was on July 3rd; her parents held a commemorative service in Brooklyn that day.
Luz Gonzalez and her mother Reyna Candia were struck outside of Clean City Laundry in Bushwick on the afternoon of Sunday, June 24th. Luz was putting on her shoe after it had fallen off when Jeannette Maria, 38, backed out of the Clean City parking lot, drove onto the sidewalk and ran her over, then continued driving. She was stopped by police shortly afterwards. Gonzalez was taken to Wyckoff Hospital with her mother, who suffered lacerations to her left leg, and pronounced dead. Maria has not been arrested or charged.
.@BrooklynDA 4 yr old Luz Gonzalez was victim of fatal hit & run. Jeannette Maria is not facing charges & rumored to have family in police force. Leaving scene of a fatal crash without reporting is Class D felony in NY state punishable by 2 1/3-7 yrs in prison. #justiciaparaluz pic.twitter.com/rj7ZovpZ7J
— Rachel Peace (@REPwrites) June 29, 2018
Neither the NYPD nor the Brooklyn District Attorney's office responded to a Gothamist inquiry about Maria's rumored family connection to law enforcement. City Councilmember Rafael Espinal, who represents Gonzalez's district, told Gothamist that "anyone who flees the scene of an accident should be charged." The district's state senator, Martin Dilan, did not respond to a Gothamist inquiry.
There have been frequent rallies in the neighborhood mourning her death and calling for Maria's arrest. Addressing protesters outside the 83rd Precinct station house on July 5th, Officer Capt. Hugo Dominguez said, "What happened was horrible. It takes time. It doesn’t mean that the lady is free — she’s entitled to due process."
On July 6th, the Department of Buildings determined that the parking lot was illegal and ordered the laundromat to close it. The lot was only accessible by driving over the heavily used sidewalk, where Gonzalez and her mother were standing. While the parking lot is now closed, there are many just like it in Brooklyn, some that are even legal and required by zoning laws.
Gonzalez's parents were concerned that if they went to the funeral and were unable to return to New York, they would no longer be able to seek justice for her. “It was a hard decision because they really wanted to go with her,” said Luz's godmother Fabiola Mendieta, who also leads a local Mexican-American advocacy group. "Right now, with the president we have, it’s hard for anyone to leave the country and try to come back."
Paul Steeley White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement on June 25:
"Luz Gonzalez and her family deserve justice. The driver who killed her could and should have been charged under Hayley and Diego's Law. Cases like these prove the need for unbiased, impartial automated enforcement like speed cameras. If Senator Marty Golden, Senator John Flanagan and Governor Cuomo fail to reconvene the Senate to extend and expand New York City's school-based speed camera program, drivers will be emboldened to drive without consequences, and children will die."
Yesterday, Golden called on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to reconvene the Senate for a special session to support the continuation of speed cameras. Cuomo has also called on the Senate to reconvene to pass a law to keep the speed cameras, but he has not compelled them to come back to Albany and vote, which he has the legal power to do.