AP Photo/ Frank Eltman

Mourners Say Final Farewell To Brentwood Mom Whose Daughter Was Killed By MS-13 Gang

September 21, 2018 - 6:09 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- A funeral Mass was held Friday for a mother recognized by President Donald Trump for turning grief over her daughter's suspected gang killing into a crusade against MS-13.

Evelyn Rodriguez, 50, was struck and killed by an SUV on Sept. 14 after a heated confrontation with the driver over the placement of a memorial to her slain daughter, Kayla Cuevas. Rodriguez and another person were seen standing in the street and yelling at the driver of the SUV before the vehicle sped forward and struck her.

Mourners gathered at St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church in Brentwood to say their final farewells.

Her heartbroken partner of 32 years looked shaken as he carried her casket inside, WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reported.

She was being remembered as a "warrior."

Rodriguez endured so much pain when her daughter was killed but she took that grief and began fighting to stop gang violence, even meeting with President Trump. 

"She put the kids first. We have almost 20,000 kids in our district and her first thought was keeping them safe," said friend Maria Heuskin.

"This community is mourning the loss of their mother, she was a mother to this community," friend Noel Vega said.

Brentwood is the epicenter of the fight against MS-13 on Long Island. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Reps. Peter King and Lee Zeldin, both Republicans attended. King said Evelyn is now with her daughter in heaven.

Rodriguez was killed two years to the day after Cuevas' beaten, slashed body was found. Cuevas and her friend, 15-year-old Nisa Mickens, were walking when police say they were ambushed by MS-13 gang members. Mickens' body was found a few hundred feet away near an elementary school.

The driver of the SUV that killed Rodriguez wasn't hurt. She remained at the scene and called 911. Police have not released the driver's name — even though doing so is common practice — citing the investigation.

Rodriguez spoke out against the gang and the local school district after Cuevas and Mickens were attacked with machetes and baseball bats. The girls' alleged killers, who were arrested along with about a dozen other suspected MS-13 members, are facing murder charges that could result in the death penalty.

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.

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.

Rodriguez stood with Cuevas' father, Freddy Cuevas, and Mickens' parents at the State of the Union in January and sat alongside Trump and King at a gang violence forum in May on Long Island.

"My daughter, Kayla, was a beautiful girl," Rodriguez said at the forum. "She had dreams, and they took that away from her. That's not right. And how these kids were murdered, tortured, is unacceptable."

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)