Community seeks justice in hit-and-run killing
by Jacob Henry
Jan 04, 2021 | 260 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rita Persaud was a beloved member of the community. (Photo: Aminta Kalawan-Narine)
Rita Persaud was a beloved member of the community. (Photo: Aminta Kalawan-Narine)
Community members held a rally in front of the 102nd Precinct on Saturday. (Photo: Renee K Productions)
Community members held a rally in front of the 102nd Precinct on Saturday. (Photo: Renee K Productions)
The community came together over the weekend and demanded justice for Ritwantee “Rita” Persaud, a well-known singer who was killed on Christmas Eve by a hit-and-run driver who has still not been apprehended.

Persaud, who was also known as Auntie Rita in her community, was sitting in the backseat of an Uber vehicle only a few blocks away from her home in Ozone Park at 7:05 p.m., when a man driving a Lamborghoni Urus SUV collided with the car at Rockaway Boulevard and 103rd Avenue and fled the scene of the crime.

The Uber driver was taken to the hospital and lived, but Persaud did not, leaving the community devastated and with little answers as to who killed her.

Throughout the week, hundreds of people attended virtual wakes in Persaud’s honor, while over 2,000 were on a livestream of her funeral.

A makeshift memorial of candles and prayers was created at the site of the tragedy, as Persaud’s passing has left the Hindu Indo-Caribbean community devastated.

Her family released a statement asking that District Attorney Melinda Katz help in finding Persaud’s killer.

“The perpetrators of this senseless death of Rita must be apprehended and brought to justice as soon as possible,” the statement said.

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, the first South Asian American woman elected to state office, said she was heartbroken to hear about Persaud’s death.

“I have spoken to Captain Fidacaro of the 102nd Precinct several times in the past few days,” Rajkumar said. “I am confident that the NYPD will use its full resources to ensure the perpetrator is apprehended and brought to justice.”

A rally was held on Saturday in front of the 102nd Precinct on 118th street, where a group of approximately 100 people, including family members, local activists, community leaders and others, called for Persaud’s killer to be apprehended.

Aminta Kilawan-Narine, who co-organized the rally with Zaman Mohamed Amin, said the community will not rest until Persaud’s killer is found.

“We need to pool all of our resources, all of our energies, to ensure that this doesn’t end up being a cold case,” Kilawan-Narine said. “Our community and its leaders will not rest. Please do not think we are going to sit passively as a community.”

Borough President Donovan Richards spoke directly to the perpetrator at the event.

“You need to turn yourself in,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time. You made that poor decision, and now you have to live in the bed that you made.”

Richards added that he spoke with the police commissioner and told him how important it was to the community that the perpetrator be held accountable.

“The police commissioner assured me that they are working very hard on this case,” Richards said. “I am confident that our men and women who are wearing a uniform are with us on this, and that we will see justice.”

Captain Antonio Fidacaro of the 102nd Precinct said he has some of the “best investigators in the world” on the case and asked for patience.

“Her name is with us every single day,” he said. “We care, we send our condolences, and we thank each and every one of you for coming out today to show us just how much she meant to you.”

Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said she has confidence investigators will find the killer.

“I know that you will attain justice for this coward that did this to this pillar of our community,” Adams said.

She said Persaud’s death marks a tragic start to 2021.

“This is a somber occasion,” Adams said. “Auntie Rita’s death will not be in vain. My heart breaks for this family, my heart breaks for this community, but she will never ever leave us.”
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