While family members are grieving the loss of a 2-year-old girl fatally struck by a car in a San Francisco crosswalk, some are also upset that her aunt has been charged in connection with the toddler's death.
"Justice for 'My-My' isn't prosecuting one of the closet people to (her) in jail," said Denae Thompson, 23, a construction worker who lives in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood. "Think about the family, especially the mother. They've already suffered enough."
Thompson is family friends with Lorysha Gage, 25, a Muni worker, who was charged on Thursday with felony child endangerment.
Gage plead not guilty Thursay to the charges. The judge, taking into account that Gage doesn’t have a criminal record, has held a steady job for years and is supposed to be a college student starting next week, lowered Gage’s $250,000 bail to $50,000.
San Francisco police say Gage crossed against the signal on Aug. 15 on Mission Street between 4th and 5th streets, and left her niece, Mi'Yana Gregory – known as "My-My" – in the crosswalk, while she went back to retrieve Mi'Yana's twin, Michael. Mi'Yana was killed by an oncoming driver, who never stopped. Police have issued a photo of the car, described as white, mid-90s, four-door sedan, believed to be either a Camry, Honda or Lexus, with a dark mismatched front bumper and dark rims. Police have acknowledged that the driver may not have known the little girl was hit.
“This is not a decision that was made lightly,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. “The facts are what the facts are.”
But according to Thompson, who has left her own twin cousins in Gage's care, Gage is "extremely loving" and has never shown "any abuse" to the children she has watched over the years. She said Mi'Yana's mother isn't mad at her sister either. She's just incredible sad. Mi'Yana's mother, Shonece Rodgers, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday morning, but she has been posting many photos of her daughter on Instagram. None of the posts say anything hurtful toward her sister. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Rodgers said she didn't blame her sister and she wants the investigation to focus on the driver, who remains at large.
Mi'Yana's father, Michael Gregory Jr., however, told the Chronicle that he didn't think his children should have been out so late at night.
Gage had taken the 2-year-olds to watch "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" at the AMC Metreon, and they were exiting the movie theater after 10:30 p.m. when Mi'Yana was struck.
Thompson defended the late hour and the PG-13 movie choice that Gage decided on for her niece and nephew.
"Yes, they're only 2, but what kids wouldn't want to see that movie?" Thompson asked rhetorically. "There was no school in the morning. That shouldn't have anything to do with what happened."
Thompson conceded that Gage "made a mistake" when she left Mi'Yana alone in the crosswalk against the signal.
"And that mistake definitely affected not only her family but the community," she said.
"But we don't blame her," Thompson said. "We are sad. But nobody is blaming her."
The family is raising money to pay for Mi'Yana's funeral expenses through an online My-My Gregory Memorial Fund.