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Families pushing for sidewalks after 2 men die weeks apart in Lakeland

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 23:22:20-05

LAKELAND, Fla — Yaica Irizarry says on Oct. 2, 2021, her 19-year-old son Einlazner Gore was simply trying to cope.

"Einlanzer was known for taking walks," she said" He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. That was his method of getting free from his mind and his thoughts."

But she says that walk cost him his life after he was hit and killed by a car on 1st street northwest in Lakeland.

"He was my first love," she said.

Two months after Einlanzer died, the Polk County Sheriff's Office says 36-year-old Antonio Smiley was killed in a hit-and-run, on that same road.

As of right now, they still haven't found the driver.

RELATED: Local parents team up after sons were killed on busy Lakeland road

"Having to explain why we deserve safety on a street where two men have died within one mile of each other, within two months feels redundant," said Yaica's sister Viviana Irizarry.

On Tuesday, ABC Action News sat with Yaica and Viviana as they asked the Polk County Sidewalk Advisory Committee for sidewalks and lights along that road.

"And it will only be a matter of time before there's another victim," said Viviana.

It's a request, that was first brought before the committee by someone else in 2019.

However, at the time, there were other projects that ranked higher in importance based on the county's rating system.

But at Tuesday's meeting, the committee revisited the request and revealed that due to the deaths of Einlazer and Antonio, and several other factors, the project is now ranked much higher.

"I just want people to know that we have a face. He had a life. He left a girlfriend. He left friends. He left cousins, brothers, a sister," said Yaica.

An initial estimate shows the project would cost the county about $ 1 million.

It will also mean they'd have to move mailboxes and lights and negotiate with some homeowners to build over a portion of their yards.

Einlazer's family says should the project move forward, they hope the community will cooperate.

"Don't only think of this as a big change to your property. Think of this as a positive change to your property, a positive change to your community," said Viviana.

It's important to note right now, the project isn't a done deal just yet. The committee will have to consider and rank other projects between now and August. And then, at that time, they'll vote to include the highest-ranked projects in next year's budget.

Because this is an ongoing process, the county says they can't comment on the proposed project, outside of Tuesday's meeting, just yet.

In the meantime, Yaica and Viviana have started an online petition for the project. They say they'll be working to raise awareness about the issue, between now and that vote in August.

If you have any information relating to Antonio Smiley's case, you're asked to contact Heartland Crime Stoppers.