Ruby Whitfield killed: Residents push for traffic light at Florida Avenue site

Ruby Whitfield was killed last Thursday.

Hundreds came out Tuesday night to both to remember Ruby Whitfield's life and to make sure her "death is not vain."

Whitfield was hit and killed by an SUV March 21 after an usher's meeting at New Samaritan Baptist Church. Police believe the driver, Joel Bromwell, was drunk and speeding when he hit Whitfield while she was in a crosswalk in the 1100 block of Florida Avenue NE.

Whitfield was dragged 86 feet. Bromwell allegedly kept driving.

A vigil was held Tuesday night at the scene of the accident.

"It was really hard,” said Whitfield's daughter, Tashya Whitfield, who had just returned from planning her mother’s funeral.

Adding to the grief is the fact that there’s no traffic light at the cross walk where Ruby Whitfield was killed.

Michael Vernon Kelsey Sr., the pastor at New Samaritan Baptist Church, said the congregation has been fighting for the safety measure since 2003, when another church member was hit by a driver and dragged. That victim survived but is still undergoing surgeries. The driver was never found.

“[This is an] unnecessary crisis waiting to happen over and over again,” Kelsey added.

After the first hit and run a decade ago, the church said the city installed pedestrian warning signs. On Tuesday morning, the congregants said a speed warning sign popped up.

But the traffic light they asked for still isn't installed.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who attended the vigil, said immediate improvements, like flashing lights, will be installed.

"Let me make a commitment tonight that we are going to do that," Gray said to the cheering crowd.

The mayor stopped short of promising a full traffic light, but he said the city would explore it.

Tashya wishes it didn't take her mother's death for changes to be made.
She said the vigil's large crowd lifted her spirits, but she still has a lot of pain.

"That was my best friend. We did everything together, we was always together...," Tashya said. "But just to see this crowd and all the people that loved my mom, it makes me feel good, it makes me feel good."