A driver ran over her 15-year-old as she walked to the school bus stop, and Shawna Rodriguez is looking for justice.
“I need answers,” she told WCPO.
Gabriella Christine Rodriguez was heading to school in Westwood, Ohio, on Monday morning when she was sideswiped by a car’s side mirror, according to WKRC.
The hit sent her tumbling to the ground, police told WLWT5, and a second car ran over the high school freshman before speeding away. The first driver, whom police identified as 27-year-old Kenosha Sanders, stayed on the scene.
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Gabriella Rodriguez was walking to the bus stop along with her brother, who called his mother after the pair of cars struck the teenager, WLWT5 reported. “Mom, Gabby’s been hit,” Shawna Rodriguez recalled her son saying on the phone. “She’s bad.”
She died at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center with her family by her side, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
In his interview with WCPO, Eduardo Rodriguez, the girl’s father, noted that he would say “I love you” to his daughter every morning because he never knew if tragedy would strike. Now, he said, that fear proved to be true with a jarring hit-and-run accident.
“They ran her over like a godd-mn animal,” Eduardo Rodriguez told WCPO. “That’s what they did.”
Carlos Blair, principal of Western Hills University High School, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Gabriella Rodriguez was a popular student who had a knack for telling funny jokes.
He said Rodriguez also helped get the girl’s softball team a new field, which just opened this year.
“She talked about our football field and baseball field and reminded me the softball team was winning and that they needed a girl’s softball field,” Blair reportedly told WLWT5. “We were able to make that possible for them. Unfortunately, now, she won’t be able to play on that field.”
Friends mourned the loss of the Gabriella Rodriguez, too.
Kendale Hunter told WKRC that she had been one of his best friends since elementary school.
“Knowing that I can’t call her ‘best friend’ anymore — I can’t shoot her a text like, ‘You need your braids done?’ or anything. She’s gone,” Hunter told WKRC. “Gabby was a magnificent person. ... She gave everybody her last change. It was you before it was her.”
He added that the person who drove away after killing Gabriella Rodriguez is “pitiful,” WKRC reported.
Cathryn Wynn, who taught the teen at a charter school before she went to high school, said that Gabriella Rodriguez was an impressive athlete who also managed to keep her grades up, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
“She was a good student – A/B honor roll – and a gifted athlete,” Wynn told the newspaper. “She played basketball, ran track, played softball; she pushed herself. She played every sport she could. If she could have played football, she would have.”
And Chris Waples, a friend of the Rodriguez family, urged the hit-and-run driver to “have some heart,” Fox19 reported.
“Turn yourself in. Probably going to be better off that you deal with the police,” he said, according to Fox19. “I don’t mean to sound threatening, but I’m just being very real. Turn yourself in.”
Mourners have set up a memorial for Gabriella Rodriguez near the fatal accident, as seen in a tweet from Fox19 reporter Mike Schell.
As her family waits for an arrest, Shawna Rodriguez told WCPO that she feels her daughter’s calming presence.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she told the outlet. “I keep hearing my daughter say, ‘Mom, you’ve got to get up. You’ve got to go. Mom, keep fighting it.’”