Young Toronto man killed in alleged impaired hit and run was ‘full of love,’ family says

A young Toronto man killed in a hit and run by an allegedly impaired driver last week was “full of love,” his mother says.

Jacob Quinonez, 18, a youth educator, died after a vehicle collided with his motorcycle on Dufferin Street at Ranee Avenue on Thursday, Aug. 5 at about 11 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A woman, 28, has been arrested and charged with three offences.

Sindi De La Cruz, his mother, said on Tuesday the death of her son has left her in shock.

“I feel like my world has ended. I feel completely empty. I feel like dying. That’s my feelings,” she said.

She has not yet seen his body. She and her son were UN-sponsored refugees from Colombia. They went to Costa Rica before coming to Canada in 2009. He was six at the time.

De La Cruz said she was told by Toronto police early Friday that he did not survive the collision. “I die when I hear that. I die. I cannot believe it,” she said.

“I wait. I still wait for my boy.”

She said Jacob would find any opportunity to come over and give her a hug and a kiss and he was a loving and caring young man. 

“Jacob was a happy person. He was full of love,” she said.

Over 100 attended memorial for Jacob Quinonez

Jennifer Arango, Jacob’s aunt, said he loved sports. She said he was good with his hands and with his mind, and he talked to children and adults.

“Everybody loved his conversation. He was always wise beyond his years. He was always mature. He cared so much for people. He wanted to make his mom proud. He knew how much he was loved,” she said.

More than 100 people came to a memorial at Ranee Park in Lawrence Heights on Monday to honour Jacob. 

A photo of Jacob Quinonez was set on a chair next to a bottle of Mountain Dew, his favourite drink, at a memorial for him on Monday. (Jessica Ng/CBC)

“Yesterday, at the memorial, every single one of his friends said that he was their confidant, that he was the only person they could talk to that made them feel like they were somebody,” Arango said.

Arango said riding his motorcycle was a passion for Jacob. “He’s always loved bikes, it’s a bond he shared with his stepfather,” she said. 

‘Please, please, please do not drink and drive’ 

Karol Micolta De La Cruz, his cousin, said Jacob was a victim of drinking and driving. She described him as her “baby cousin” and said they grew up together.

“He was smart. He was ambitious. He had goals. He was caring. He was loving. He cared for absolutely everyone, Whether you were his friend or not, he was there,” she said.

“I want everybody to know and I want to share this message really loud: Please, please, please do not drink and drive. Unfortunately, my cousin was a victim of this sad tragedy. And I want the person behind all of this to just sit down and think about what you have done. Think about the life that you have taken,” she added.

“Take a moment to please think about our family. We have lost somebody that we will never get a chance to hold, to hug, to say, ‘I love you.’ We are never going to hear from him again. The only way to visit him is at his graveyard. You have taken a piece of our heart.”

People gathered at Ranee Park on Monday to remember Jacob Quinonez. (Submitted by Karol Micolta De La Cruz)

The driver who allegedly struck his motorcycle has been charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing death, exceeding blood alcohol causing death and leaving the accident scene causing death.

She was released on bail, and is due back in court on Sept. 16.

Freedom School raising funds for family

Toronto’s Freedom School, where Jacob was a youth educator, is raising money for his family through a GoFundMe Page. Freedom School describes itself as a program for Black youth to learn about self love, histories of Black resistance and community organizing.

“Jacob could talk to anyone and he could make any conversation light by cracking a joke. His personality was magnetic — his ideas, his voice, the way he talked, the way he walked with integrity,” the tribute reads.

“Jacob was wise beyond his years and he fought through more in his 18 years than many could imagine. He was loving and bright, always playing off his brilliance with style.”

Nauoda Robinson, co-director of the Freedom School, said Jacob was instrumental in developing programming at the school, which runs cultural education programs for Black youth. On Tuesday, the school provided extra support for children to cope with his death.

“He went from being a kid that we supported to educating and doing workshops with us where we go into schools and teach about anti-Black racism,” she said.

“Justice was highly important to him. He questioned, he stood up, and he worked through what he needed to.”

Vehicle found abandoned in parking lot

According to a news release on Friday, Toronto police allege a woman was driving a black 2020 Dodge Caravan eastbound on Bentworth Avenue at Dufferin Street when she collided with a man riding a 2016 Honda CB500 motorcycle northbound on Dufferin Street at Ranee Avenue. Police have not identified Quinonez as the victim.

After the hit and run, police said they found the vehicle that allegedly hit the motorcycle abandoned in the parking lot of a townhouse complex. (Jeremy Cohn/CBC)

Police said the vehicles collided in the intersection. The woman tried to flee but was located later that night.

Staff Sgt. Paul Lentsch said after the collision that police found her vehicle abandoned in the parking lot of a townhouse complex on nearby Flemington Road. The investigation is continuing.

“Police are requesting local residents, businesses and drivers, who may have security or dash camera footage of the area or incident, to contact investigators,” police said in the release.

Sindi De La Cruz said she wants the driver put in jail “to pay, to think, to teach to the people — don’t drink and drive.” 

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