‘We Are Devastated’: Family of Slain Sunset Park Delivery Worker Demands Justice
On Tuesday night, dozens of family members, friends, and mourners crowded onto the same sidewalk in Sunset Park where Yener Rodas, a delivery worker, was stabbed to death during a botched robbery last Saturday. The vigil was a stark reminder of the many dangers facing the city’s more than 65,000 deliveristas, according to his family, who want justice for their loved one.
“We are devastated, but what can we do,” Rodas’s brother Guinder said during the vigil, according to NY1 Noticias. “I never thought that I would find my brother on the floor bleeding without a chance at life. And I hope that justice does its job so that there is no other family going through what we are going through.”
Rodas’s sister also spoke, but broke down in tears as she addressed the crowd.
According to Guinder, Rodas emigrated from Guatemala to Brooklyn eight years ago “in search of better opportunities.” When the 31-year-old wasn’t playing soccer or hanging with friends and family, he was making deliveries on his electric scooter, or working his other job cleaning a synagogue in Borough Park.
The circumstances surrounding Rodas’s death remain murky. According to police, his family, and a story in the Daily News, Rodas was killed on Aug. 20 at about 1 am while trying to help his nephews during an attempted robbery at the corner of 44th St. and Seventh Ave, at the edge of the neighborhood’s eponymous park — the same green space where Rodas loved to play soccer. His two nephews were also stabbed and injured in the attack, according to police.
The NYPD hasn’t made any arrests, and refused to confirm if the assailants actually took anything, or provide any other details. But according to the Daily News, police believe that two attackers were involved; one fled on foot while the other on an electric scooter.
But the tragic stabbing is just the latest example of the plight of delivery workers — the majority of whom are low-income immigrant men — who risk their lives every day either in their own homes, thanks to cheap, faulty lithium-ion batteries, or on the city’s perilous streets keeping New Yorkers fed.
Back in April, 45-year-old Zhiwen Yan was shot and killed by Glenn Hirsch, who was reportedly angry over the amount of duck sauce that came with his order (Hirsch later died by suicide). Roughly a week later, another Chinese delivery worker was robbed, punched, and shot at in Crown Heights — the bullets missed him he was not seriously injured, according to the Post. And last year, 29-year-old Francisco Villalva was killed after refusing to give up his electric bicycle during an attempted robbery in East Harlem, Gothamist reported at the time.
“The reason we’re here again is because he happened to be a delivery worker, and we know that safety is one of the biggest issues that’s impacting delivery workers,” said Ligia Guallpa, the executive director of Workers Justice Project, during a candlelit vigil for Rodas. “We want to make sure there is more safety on our streets, we want to make sure that there’s cameras, and most important that all the agencies are really working together to really bring justice to the family.”
Guallpa, who translated Rodas’s brother’s remarks from Spanish to English, said the family just wants someone to be held accountable so Rodas’s life and memory is not in vain.
“All his family is looking for is justice,” said Guallpa.
“Thank you for showing up for my brother and our family.” — Guilder Rodas
— Workers Justice ?? (@workersjusticep) August 24, 2022
A GoFundMe set up for Rodas has so far raised almost $7,000 dollars as of Tuesday night — more than half of its $12,000 goal in order to send Rodas’s body back to his native Guatemala for a burial.