Even in a bustling metropolis as big and crowded as New York City, we like to think that we’re basically safe. This is especially true of our own neighborhoods: places we’ve known our whole lives since we were children.
It was a normal Wednesday night, and Lesandro was down at the bodega a block away from his family’s apartment. It was a place he’d frequented since he was a little kid. Now in high school, he had little to fear from strangers, especially not in his own neighborhood…
15-year-old Lesandro had gone to the corner Bodega for a snack. Just as he had a hundred times before. By the end of that day, Lesandro was dead. Today, his parents and community at large are trying to figure out what could have happened as they mourn the loss of their loved one. Hundreds of people lined up for blocks to pay their respects.
Even Police Commissioner James O’Neill made an appearance. It was appropriate because ever since Lesandro, Junior as he was called by those who knew him well, first saw a police car, he had wanted to join the NYPD. He was even enrolled in the department’s Explorer program and they too were helping to guide him towards fulfilling that dream…
Lesandro’s father, in remembrance of his beloved son, got a tattoo the day of the wake and displayed it proudly as he walked down the street towards his son’s casket. The memorial to Junior’s untimely death had been going on for a few days. Candles and flowers sat outside the now-shuttered bodega on East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue.
“They broke my heart,” explained Junior’s mom, Leandra “They killed my son, and they killed me at the same time…I feel death right now. That’s the only thing that can bring me back to life, real life. I want my son with me.” But Leandra wouldn’t get her son back and justice for Junior had to wait until the police could find out exactly what happened that fateful Wednesday…
Junior had gone into the bodega and before he could spit had been snatched up by a gang of no less than eight thugs who dragged him out of the building and into the street. They slashed his throat with a machete and ran off. Bleeding out, Lesandro tried to run the block to St. Barnabas Hospital, but was too weak to make it.
Lesandro collapsed onto the sidewalk. Onlookers tried their best to get him to St. Barnabas but it was already too late. No sooner had his mother arrived than she was given the bad news. Junior had never even made it to the operating table, let alone the intensive care unit where she was looking for him. He was dead on arrival. And that wasn’t even the worst of it…
Worse than her son’s brutal and completely unwarranted murder was the fact that the workers of the bodega, a place where the Guzman-Feliz family had gone many times before, had done nothing to help Junior. Surveillance video of the attack showed them standing there dumbfounded and useless in the face of the dying teen.
The neighborhood was outraged at their inaction. Sure, it’s understandable that they didn’t want to be attacked by the mob themselves, but they could have come out to help him afterward. Since that day, the once popular bodega has remained closed, it’s workers afraid to show their faces as the neighborhood mourns. But who was behind the attack in the first place?
Whoever the men were, they certainly knew how to kill. Their machete, not normally used for its finesse, had managed to slice across Junior’s carotid artery, the main artery that pumps blood to the heart. The attack bore all the signs of being part of some sort of gang retaliation or induction test. Only, Leandro wasn’t in or affiliated with any gangs.
Junior’s neighbors, those who witnessed the attack, believe that the suspected assailants are part of the Trinitarios, a New York-based Dominican gang. Like most gangs, this was not a group of people that you wanted to mess with. Thankfully, before anyone could officially snitch, someone came forward with definitive information…
One of the boy’s relatives, who didn’t want to be identified, was told that a similarly anonymous member of the Trinitarios sent him a message over Snapchat, apologizing for the killing. According to this remorseful gang member, Junior’s savage murder was actually a tragic case of mistaken identity.
The gang member admitted that they thought Junior was someone else at the time of the attack and they killed him by accident. They also sent their condolences for the family’s loss…which of course meant little-to-nothing in this situation. Armed with this knowledge, the police began to follow up on a number of leads…
The NYPD followed those leads all the way to New Jersey, where their brothers in blue set up a raid of a house known as a potential hangout for the gang tied to Junior’s murder. Officers stormed the house and gang members fled in all directions. One of them even jumped out a window and had to be chased down. They captured six men in that raid.
They arrested Jose Muniz, 21, of Paterson, Jose Taverez, 21, of the Bronx, Manuel Rivera, 18, of the Bronx, Danel Fernandez, 21, of the Bronx, Joniki Martinez, 24, of Freeport, and Santiago Rodriguez, 24, of the Bronx. That’s not counting 19-year-old Kevin Alvarez, who was also charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, gang assault, and assault. But there was one more left…
The eighth and final person aligned with the crime was found in the Dominican Republic. He is currently cooperating with the investigation but no charges have as yet been filed against him. The Guzman-Feliz family could now breathe a sigh of relief. Their son’s killers had been caught and would now face justice.
They Must Pay
As word spread through the neighborhood about the arrests, cheers erupted in front of the makeshift memorial at the bodega. “Thank God they caught him,” said Leandra Feliz, “They have to pay for what they did to my son. My son was innocent.” And Leandra wasn’t the only one who spoke as such….
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio actually came out to speak at Junior’s memorial as well. “That was a young man who wanted to serve the city, be a part of our police force and had such a bright future and now he’s taken from us. I think for all of us it feels very personal to have lost such an exemplary young man.”
The mayor and the NYPD have recently gone on and on about the much lower crime rates these days. The problem is that the statistics don’t mean a heck of a lot when you’re grieving for a lost son. Especially when you consider that the murder rate in the precinct where Junior was killed increased this year. Some members of the community even believe that the city has failed and continues to fail young people like junior…
Community leaders outside the bodega argue that one of the main problems lies in the infrastructure, that the city just isn’t providing the community with enough resources for youth in the neighborhood. Their opinion is that these problems could be avoided in the future if more of these were put into effect.
Justice for Junior
State Senator Gustavo Rivera agreed saying, “We not only failed Junior, but we failed these young people who believed their only option is to join a group that will force them into this violence.” Meanwhile, the community is still pulling together to help. A GoFundMe account titled “Justice for Junior” raised close to $200,000 thanks to donations.
Police Uncover Questionable Motives Behind Vicious New York City Slaying is an article from: LifeDaily