July 6, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Thousands of people whose hearts were broken over the hit-and-run death of a 4-year-old girl in Bushwick 12 days ago have signed a petition demanding justice for the young girl while also donating money in droves to help the grieving family.
“Justice for Luz Gonzalez”, the name of the petition, was created just over a week ago, but has already amassed over 28,000 supporters as of today. And two GoFundMe accounts from people close to the family have raised more than $48,000 for the cause.
The petition demands that the NYPD arrest the 38-year-old driver of the vehicle who struck Luz and her mother while driving out of the Heaven Scent Laundromat at 82 Wyckoff Ave at around 4:30 p.m. on June 24.
Luz and her 39-year-old mother, according to police, were walking on Hart Street when they both stopped and knelt so the mother could tend to the child.
At the same time, the driver of a Nissan Rogue was pulling out of a laundromat parking spot, and then drove forward onto Hart Street, striking both Luz and her mother, police said. The driver, however, kept going.
Police responding to the scene later stopped the 38-year-old driver about a block away, who told them she was unaware that she had hit anyone, a NYPD spokesperson said.
Both Luz and her mom were taken to Wyckoff Hospital, where Luz was pronounced dead.
As of today, there have been no arrests, and the investigation is ongoing, the NYPD spokesperson added.
The Brooklyn District attorney’s office is also actively investigating the incident, a DA spokesperson said.
The lack of charges and arrests have angered hundreds in the community, some who have protested outside the laundromat and 83rd Precinct every single day since the fatal hit to protest what they call police inaction. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also led a memorial march for Luz on June 27, where he said the 4-year-old was the ninth child killed by a driver this year.
“We are filled with pain over the senseless death of Luz Gonzalez,” he said on Twitter. “From that pain, and the pain of every child we have lost to traffic crashes, we derive purpose to demand justice and safer streets that protect all of our families.”
In addition, surveillance video and graphic images of the incident have spread on social media that clearly show the car bounce as it drives over Luz’s body, causing further outrage.
“The death of Luz Gonzalez has been a huge impact to all [residents] of Bushwick, especially mothers and fathers with small children,” reads part of the petition created by Melanie Torres, whose exact relationship to the family is unclear. “Her family needs justice, we all need justice for Luz!”
The petition also includes the name of the driver believed to be behind the wheel—Jeannette Maria. While police have not released the driver’s name, the Daily News has identified Maria as the driver.
“We the people are not okay with this outcome,” Torres, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, wrote. “Jeannette Maria needs to be charged for the murder of this precious child.”
As for the donation drives for the family, two GoFundMe accounts—one created by Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio, Luz’s godmother, and another by George Weld, owner of Williamburg’s Egg restaurant, where Luz’s uncle works, have seen similar displays of support.
Both Mendieta-Cuapio and Weld did not respond to requests for comment by press time, but Mendieta-Cuapio’s fundraiser, which launched 10 days ago, has received $31,151 from 1,340 donations, and Weld’s account, opened on June 27, has amassed $17,075 to date.
“The money we raise will go directly to the Gonzalez family, whom we have known for a decade,” Weld wrote. “I will personally withdraw the funds and deliver them directly to Jesus Gonzalez, Luz’s uncle, as he requests.”
Meanwhile, the actual laundromat the 38-year-old driver pulled out of is under a Department of Buildings investigation involving its parking lot. A DOB spokesperson said the office received three public complaints regarding the parking lot after the accident, and that the agency has opened an investigation into determining the legality of the parking lot.