Vigil for 5-year-old struck by car in Cleveland hit-skip calls for safety

As family and the community mourn the loss of the young girl killed in a hit and run, they vow her legacy will be a catalyst for change.
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 5:47 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Gone but not forgotten... A neighborhood of friends and strangers come together to provide strength to the family of a 5-year-old girl killed in a hit and run on Saturday, April 23.

A community holding vigil and vowing the child’s legacy will be a catalyst for change.

One neighbor with tears running down her face told the more than 70 people gathered on West 50th in Cleveland, “What happened was a tragedy. It’s a tragedy that should never happen again. Not to another child.”

Apolina Asumani had just emerged through two parked cars and was crossing the street near her home when a speeding driver hit her, dragged her, and then took off.

The evening before a family lays a daughter to rest, other parents in the community brought their children to the candlelight vigil leaving dolls and teddy bears in Apolina’s memory.

But it’s the children really struggling to understand what happened, according to San Pedro Garcia, “Seeing the kids faces is like their childhood just got away from them.”

Apolina’s mother, who has five children, is a Congolese refugee who moved to the United States for a better life, only to tragically lose a child. But family members said she is thankful for the loving arms of the community offering support in her darkest hour.

Ward 3 Cleveland Councilman Kerry McCormack said a horrible tragedy like this is why legislation was introduced to make streets safer three years ago, adding speed bumps and other safety measures to slow drivers down.

Sadly, it went nowhere, but he plans to reintroduce it and put Apolina’s name on it, “The New Mayor supports it which is encouraging. But that type of legislation would bring speed humps to neighborhood streets.”

Now a community is holding vigil, and vowing change, realizing the best way to honor Apolina’s memory is to ensure no other child is killed by a speeding driver.

Neighbors of 5-year-old Cleveland girl killed by hit-skip driver want speed bumps on their street

Police said that the driver of the car who killed the girl fled the scene, but was taken into custody after a passenger in the car returned to the scene.

Court records paint an alarming picture of the 17-year-old girl behind the wheel of a deadly hit and run.

Community mourns loss of 5-year-old girl killed in hit-skip

19 Investigates discovered the girl has a violent criminal history dating back to 2019 when she was just 13 years old: disorderly conduct, criminal trespassing, property damage, and domestic violence charges amongst other findings.

19 News has reported extensively when Cleveland Police asked the community to help find the girl after she went missing in 2021 and earlier this year in February.

The juvenile was supposed to be living in the care of Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services. but was delinquent when police say she hit and killed 5-year-old Apolina Asumani last Saturday.

Apolina Asumani was killed by a hit and run driver Saturday, April 23, 2022.
Apolina Asumani was killed by a hit and run driver Saturday, April 23, 2022.(WOIO)

Officers say the little girl ran out from between two parked cars when a dark-colored sedan hit her, dragged her, and then took off.

Neighbors provided Ring camera footage to 19 News of the accident. It is edited to not show the impact.

The passenger in the car returned to the scene and told police the driver threatened her with a gun. Shortly after, police arrested the 17-year-old girl for Apolina’s death. Court records reveal she does not have a valid driver’s license.

The 17-year-old girl is facing multiple charges: aggravated vehicular homicide, felonious assault, failure to stop after an accident, intimidation of a crime victim or witness, tampering with evidence and several firearm charges.

Tuesday morning, a 19 News crew tried to talk to the juvenile’s mother at her home but she didn’t have much to say.

The Refugee Response and friends started fundraisers for the family and raised more than $4200.

Click here if you’d like to contribute.

Apolina Asumani was killed by a hit and run driver Saturday, April 23, 2022.
Apolina Asumani was killed by a hit and run driver Saturday, April 23, 2022.(WOIO-TV)

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