We joined the family of Jayanna Powell on Thursday, August 17th to celebrate Jayanna’s life on what should have been her 15th birthday. On November 18, 2016, eight year old Jayanna Powell was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Ayeshia Poole’s four children were walking home from school around 3 in the afternoon when Paul Woodlyn drove around a stopped trolley car at 63rd and Lansdowne and hit two of her children, Hassan Cox (age 12) and Jayanna Powell (age 8). Jayanna was thrown 100 feet in the air and passed away later that day at CHOP. Her brother, Hassan, suffered injuries to his leg. The suspect fled the scene immediately. Later the Philadelphia Police Crash Investigation Division noted that there were no tire marks on the roads indicating that Woodlyn didn’t even try to stop.
On August 17th, 2023, Ayeshia spoke to a crowd of family, neighbors, and Families for Safe Streets members about her daughter. She shared what Jayanna was like as a child: happy, loving, and with her sights set on becoming a lawyer or the first black women President. Ayeshia also mentioned how we she wanted to hold this event every year with a special focus on advocating for the Jay Alert legislation.
Ayeshia and her sister Jasmine Hoffman came up with “Jay Alert” in honor of Jayanna, to help solve hit and run cases and, most importantly, so no mother has to go through what they went through. It’s one thing to lose a loved one in a traffic crash, it’s another to hear that the driver left your loved one and drove away. “If Jay Alert existed in 2016, [Jayanna’s] parents, the police, community and most importantly auto shops would have been aware and alert,” said Jasmine Hoffman.
After the crash, Woodlyn took his vehicle to an auto body shop in Chester County, stating that the damage to his car happened when he had hit a deer. It wasn’t until an employee of the auto body shop saw the news reports of the fatal crash, that the shop owner reported the vehicle and the suspect to authorities.
Since 2017, Ayeshia Poole and Jasmine Hoffman have been advocating alongside State Senator Anthony Williams for Jay Alert legislation. Jay Alert would act similar to Amber Alert and would notify auto body shops to look out for a car that matches the description of a car involved in a hit and run resulting in death or serious injury.
“The tragic loss of Jayanna Powell highlights the urgent need for the implementation of Jay Alert,” said Senator Williams to the Bicycle Coalition. “It is imperative that we prioritize the safety of our communities, and I am committed to championing this legislation until it becomes a reality.”
Traffic crashes hit a record breaking high in 2020 with an increase in reckless and distracted driving during the pandemic. As traffic fatality numbers have started to decrease, deadly hit and runs in Philadelphia remain troublingly high.
Jay Alert would not only help the police to find drivers but also give the family some kind of closure. Currently, the legislation passed out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee unanimously on June 21st and has been referred to Appropriations.
They have been fighting for this to pass for almost 7 years now. “I will not stop fighting until it passes. I’m standing and fighting for all hit and run victims. I will be their voice.” said Ayeshia Poole.