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Woman Killed In Crash While Celebrating 23rd Birthday; Driver At Large After Running Away

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A woman celebrating her 23rd birthday was killed in a crash early Sunday morning in Brooklyn.

Now, police are searching for the driver of the car she was in, who allegedly ran from the scene, leaving two passengers behind.

A woman celebrating her 23rd birthday was killed in a deadly hit-and-run early Sunday morning in Brooklyn. (Credit: Family handout)

A photo of 23-year-old Joanna Dixon overlooks a makeshift memorial in East Flatbush, where she was killed.

On Monday, her grieving parents visited the accident scene. Her father, Collin Dixon, wiped away raindrops to see their only daughter's face.

Back at home, he spoke about losing her.

"Pain," he said. "Wish she was here."

Collin Dixon says just before 5 a.m. Sunday, his daughter was heading home after celebrating her birthday with friends. She was in the backseat of a Mazda when police say the driver ran a stop sign on East 55th Street at Foster Avenue.

Police say an off-duty NYPD officer T-boned their car at the intersection, sending them spinning into a telephone pole.

Joanna Dixon was killed. Her best friend, identified by family as 22-year-old Nia Reynolds, was seriously injured.

The man who was behind the wheel of the Mazda ran off. Police are still looking for him.

"You're still alive. My daughter is dead. We can't bring her back, and it's painful, it's really painful," Collin Dixon said. "People are just not cognizant of the dangers that they put others in."

"When I got the news this morning – my mom called me – my chest just started beating real fast to hear that my cousin, who I just literately saw a few minutes, few hours, before, is now deceased," said Dixon's cousin, Collado Gray.

"She like to just go enjoy life," Collin Dixon told CBS2's Reena Roy. "It was her 23rd birthday. She was celebrating with her friends. I guess her stop was going to be the last stop."

"You took someone very loving, caring, fun-loving person out of my life," said Gray. "I was very close to her. I saw her like a little sister."

"You can run but you can't hide. Everybody knows who the driver is. But regardless if you panicked or not, he was not supposed to run away. He was supposed to stop and face the consequences," longtime friend and landlord Michael Leepack said.

The off-duty officer stayed at the scene and was arrested, facing several charges including vehicular manslaughter and driving while ability impaired by alcohol, but the Brooklyn District Attorney's office says it's postponing prosecution until investigators complete the investigation.

So for now, the officer is free but suspended without pay.

The surviving victim's mother was too distraught to show her face and told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez she's more worried about her daughter than what happens to the cop.

"I'm just looking for my daughter to heal," she said.

Joanna Dixon's father says he's stunned the DA's office is holding off on charging the officer. He said it doesn't seem fair.

Dixon's father added she was student at York College and loved by many.

The family also says there was a fourth person in the Mazda. He was not seriously hurt. Collin Dixon said that passenger texted him apologizing for the accident.

Anyone with information about the Mazda driver's whereabouts is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) for Spanish. You can also submit a tip via the Crime Stoppers website, by tweeting @NYPDTips or by texting 274637.

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