Elected officials, religious leaders and Ozone Park residents gathered outside the 102nd Precinct in Ozone Park last Saturday, over a week after a hit-and-run killed Indo-Caribbean vocalist Ritawantee “Rita” Persaud, to demand that the NYPD find the driver who fled the scene of accident.
“This person’s recklessness caused the death of our dear Auntie Rita and there hasn’t been an arrest since. So today we’re asking to pool all our resources, all our energies to endure that this doesn’t end up being a cold case,” organizer Aminta Kilawan-Narine said at the rally.
Persaud, 54, was taking an Uber ride in a black Toyota Camry Dec. 24 when the 50-year-old driver of the vehicle was hit by a man driving a Lamborghini Urus SUV carrying a passenger from the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Uber driver, the Lamborghini passenger and Persaud were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where the former two were listed in stable condition and Persaud was declared dead. The Lamborghini driver fled the scene on foot.
The Hindu community in Queens has been shaken by the death of Persaud, who became well-known in New York and Guyana for singing devotional music at various mandirs in New York and her work teaching her art form to young people.
The rally reflected Persaud’s religious passion. The Pandit Manoj Jadubans, the leader of Persaud’s house of worship, Shaanti Bhavan Mandir in Jamaica, led the crowd in a prayer near the beginning of the event.
“We are obviously saddened and hurt and broken but we still have a strong resolve to ensure there’s justice for her — that senseless death and lack of compassion by running away — that’s not a society and ideals we grew up in,” said Persaud’s cousin, speaking on behalf of her family.
A number of elected officials attended the rally to reiterate the urgency of apprehending the individual who fled the scene.
“We want to send a clear message to the perpetrator that you need to turn yourself in. It’s only a matter of time,” said Borough President Donovan Richards, who said that he had a conversation with the police commissioner about how important it was for the community. He said that Commissioner Shea assured him that the NYPD is focused on the case.
Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), recently appointed as the City Council’s Public Safety chair, forcefully condemned the actions of the driver of the Lamborghini.
“I thank the 102nd Precinct because I know that you will attain justice for this coward that killed a pillar of our community,” said Adams.
Area Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) hastened the efforts of the NYPD to catch the driver.
“[Persaud’s family members] need to feel a sense of urgency that something is being done to get to the bottom of this to apprehend, to indict and convict the person who is responsible for her death,” he said.
Around 100 people attended the rally holding signs with Persaud’s photo and calling for a stronger police response.
After the politicians spoke, 102nd Precinct Capt. Antonio Fidacaro, the commanding officer, addressed the crowd and assured them that he was listening to their concerns.
“The entire community needs to understand that we are taking this case with extreme urgency,” said Fidacaro.
Kilawan-Narine said that she had talked to the precinct leader previous to the event and was able to open a line of communication between police and the family of the deceased.
Anyone with information on the driver of the Lamborghini who took the life of Persaud is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477) or visit nypdcrimestoppers.com.