FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Family members of the young preschool teacher who, authorities said, was fatally gunned down along Interstate 95 in Fort Lauderdale on Thanksgiving weekend said she was a devoted educator who cared for her students and had her whole life ahead of her.
Cellphone video captured Ana Estevez, nicknamed “Ani,” as her students sang “Happy Birthday to You” in their classroom.
Speaking with 7News on Friday, her cousins, Fernando and Janilda Rodriguez, said the footage shows the teacher doing what she loved to do best.
“Particularly for kids. She had a strong connection to children,” said Fernando. “She was someone who was really on a path to do things within her passion.”
At just 23 years old, Estevez was already head teacher at the Montessori preschool where she worked, according to her cousins, who added that she was studying to teach special needs students.
But all of that potential and hope was taken away Sunday night.
According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, someone fired bullets into the Nissan Sentra the victim was driving southbound along I-95, between Sunrise and Broward boulevards, as she headed home after Thanksgiving.
Estevez was rushed to Broward Health Medical Center, where she later died.
Investigators said her boyfriend, who was sitting in the passenger seat, was injured and also taken to BHMC.
“Twenty-three years old, just beginning her life, beginning to have a lot of her life,” said Fernando.
Detectives released a sketch of the subject. They are looking for a white BMW i8 that, they said, the gunman was driving.
Authorities said the subject sideswiped Estevez’s car before he opened fire.
“That has been absolutely the one thing that – I mean, I know my wife and I, we, like, woke up this morning, and every day you just wish when you wake up, like, it was a nightmare, that it wasn’t real,” said Fernando, “and that’s one of the things that’s been very, very difficult, because it’s senseless.”
“We just want the world to know that Ani was someone that the world needed,” said Janilda. “Her love, her kindness, her gentleness was something that this cruel world truly needed, and that was taken away.”
Now Estevez’s loved ones are asking anyone who may have witnessed the shooting or recognize the subject from the sketch to come forward.
Estevez’s family have created GoFundMe page to help with expenses. If you would like to make a donation, click here.
If you have any information on this shooting or the gunman’s whereabouts, call the Broward Sheriff’s Office or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.
Copyright 2023 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.