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East Side community urges justice at vigil for hit-and-run victim

Juanita Jackson stood in the front of a group of about 100 people with a stoic expression. She wore a bright, white T-shirt with the words, "Rest in peace, mom," overlaid on a picture of a woman.

The woman was her daughter, Ramona Sanders, 40, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash at East Ferry and Grider streets on Thursday after 10 p.m.

A vigil was held for Sanders at 7 p.m. Sunday on the 900 block of Donovan Street. It was organized with the help of the Buffalo Peacemakers, a group dedicated to ending the cycle of violence in Buffalo neighborhoods.

Pastor James Giles, coordinator of the Buffalo Peacemakers, urged the community to support the family.

"She left six kids behind," Giles said. "I'm asking Buffalo to help this family, by any means necessary."

The family and friends who spoke had a common message throughout their speeches.

"To the person who committed this hurtful crime, please turn yourself in," said Moses Weary, a family friend. "Please, I beg you. This is what the family wants. This is what the family needs."

"Amen," the crowd replied.

For Jackson, this is the second child, and third loved one, she has lost to violence. She stood next to her grandson – whose father was killed in 2008 – explaining that his father's killer was never caught.

As Jackson explained that she doesn't want the same fate for her daughter, her solid demeanor was quickly replaced by tears and wails of pain. The only words she could let out were, "Please, for my daughter, please, please."

"This is the third victim this woman has lost tragically. She has no justice in her heart about this community," Giles said. "This is a fine community. I know we love each other. When our backs are against the wall is when the best in us is brought out. Our backs are against the wall now."

Giles urged that if somebody saw anything that could help with the case and bring the family peace, to please come forward.

After closing prayers, two balloon bouquets were released into the sky.

"May these circle the earth until justice is done," Giles said.

A donation page has been set up for Sanders. Proceeds will go toward her funeral.

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