TAMPA, Fla. — The lawyer for the family of a 14-year-old hit-and-run victim is demanding changes during a press conference alongside the teenager's family Thursday.
Gil Sanchez is representing the estate of Asucena “Susie” Gomez.
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Susie’s mother, sisters and family members sat alongside him at Del Valle Mexican Grill for the news conference, as well as immigration attorney Vivian Canals.
"Susie was very noble very quiet girl. Soft spoken. With a huge heart," said Canals, interpreting for Susie's mother Angeline "Ana" Hernandez Diaz.
On the evening of January 30, deputies say 24-year-old Nakeeba Ryan hit Susie while she was walking home with friends. According to investigators, Ryan got out of her SUV, walked over to the victim, checked her car, pulled over in a parking lot briefly, then left. A driver behind Ryan stopped to help the teenager.
"She observed a person laying on the ground with people tending to her. She returned to her vehicle and moved it to a nearby parking lot. she did not natoice any damage to her vehicle and became overwhelmed," investigators wrote in a search warrant filed in court of their interview with Ryan. "She advised she did not associate the person laying on the ground as the object she struck She then left the scene and continued to her boyfriend's apartment."
Gomez was in critical condition for nearly two weeks before dying from her injuries.
"In that tragedy there is been rays of hope for other families and Ana within her pain and grievances she made a decision that has given life to others. Through the form of organ donation," Sanchez said.
Black Rock Trial Lawyers released this translated statement on behalf of Diaz:
"I can’t explain the pain I feel for Susie. No parent should have to go through this. I can’t understand why Susie is gone. I lived in poverty in Mexico and that’s why I came to the U.S. I plead to all parents to please watch out and care for your children. Please protect them because it is so painful what I am going through. I do not wish this upon any one. Do not let your children walk by themselves, always walk with them.My Susie had only been here for a short time. We work hard so all my girls can succeed. Susie was so kind, soft spoken and organized. She would keep her room and all her things organized. She did her homework and was very responsible. She was loved by all her family and friends. Susie leaves a big void in our lives. However, I still have my two daughters Erica and Griselda who need my strength to move on. I thank my lawyers and their team Gil Sanchez, Monica Sanchez and Vivian Canals for helping me and being by my side. I also thank Virginio Paloma for also supporting me. I want justice for my Susie and that this does not happen to anyone again. Thank you for your support. This is very hard."
The group expressed a push to change the law and the road in the wake of Susie's death.
"It’s unfair for victims have to have insult to injury and Ryan did not have the insurance coverage for the family and the law in Florida doesn’t require that," Sanchez said. "And Ana has expressed this that that should be a standard or a law here in Florida."
Sanchez also called for changes to the roadway.
"She calls on the local officials in Hillsborough County especially public works to do their job make it safe and don’t just do the minimum and paint there why don’t you put a light there or at least a button you can press where it shows for you to cross. These are measures that just make sense and actually save lives," said Sanchez.
According to Hillsborough County transportation leaders, a pedestrian was killed in March crossing 15th Street and since 2015, there have been 18 crashes at the intersection.
County officials previously told ABC Action News 15th Street between Fletcher and Fowler is identified in the county's 2020 transportation surtax project plan as a future complete street project, and that they were working with the sheriff's office to see if there was something immediate that could be done in the meantime.
Sanchez said they were looking into filing a civil lawsuit against the county and Ryan.
Deputies arrested Ryan the morning after the crash. She bonded out of jail two days later.
"We will never know if this young life could have been saved had Nakeeba Ryan remained at the scene and called for help immediately instead of driving away," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "Fleeing from a crash is not only cruel, but it is also a guaranteed way to face charges, even if you were not at fault. Under no circumstances should a driver leave the scene of an accident."
Ryan was employed with the Department of Children and Family Services in the Customer Call Center in Tampa. Officials for DCF say she was terminated the day of her arrest.
"Our hearts go out to the child victim, as well as her friends and family who are suffering because of this tragic incident. The alleged driver, Nakeeba Ryan, had been with the Department of Children and Families since February 8, 2019. She was an employee in the Customer Call Center in Tampa, handling inquiries pertaining to our economic self-sufficiency program," said Natalie Harrell, Communications Director, Suncoast Region Florida Department of Children and Families. "To be clear, Ms. Ryan’s alleged behavior is not reflective of the high standards we expect and demand from DCF employees. We take all instances of employee malfeasance seriously, especially those that harm the vulnerable populations we serve every day, and therefore, Ms. Ryan’s employment was immediately terminated.
Ryan is due back in court on February 17. She is now facing charges for leaving the scene of a crash with death, which is a first-degree felony. According to the court documents, prosecutors want her bond to increase as well.
In the meantime, attorneys explained that the family needs help. They said Gomez's father passed away years ago and that her mother was facing immigration issues and in need of emergency surgery for a form of cancer.
A GoFundMe page has been launched to help the grieving family.