Remembering Junior: 5 years since Lesandro Guzman-Feliz's murder

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, June 20, 2023
Remembering Junior: 5 years since Lesandro Guzman-Feliz's murder
Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz was killed in a brutal gang attack outside a Bronx deli five years ago.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz was killed in a brutal gang attack outside a Bronx deli five years ago.

He was mistakenly targeted as a rival gang member by a group of 14 men all believed to be members of the Trinitarios gang on June 20, 2018.

Authorities were called for reports of an assault in progress around 11:40 p.m. that day, at a bodega on East 183rd and Bathgate Avenue.

When they arrived, witnesses told them there had been a fight in front of the store that resulted in the 15-year-old getting slashed in the neck with a machete.

Officials say Junior then ran to St. Barnabas Hospital, located just a block away, but he collapsed on the sidewalk. His dying words, investigators said, were that he needed some water.

He lived one block from the bodega and was known in the neighborhood as Junior. Investigators say he told his mother he was heading downstairs to repay $5 to a friend, but instead he ended up involved in some type of dispute.

Relatives hugged and cried at the scene the day after the slashing, desperate to understand how and why such a thing could happen. They described him as a good kid and a typical teenager.

"All I can say was that he was a good kid," sister Genesis Collado-Feliz said. "He just played Playstation. He played Fortnite. He played 2K, like every 15-year-old. He asked me for advice with girls."

The stabbing of Junior stunned the city with its sickening depravity, and launched an international social media movement under the hashtag #justiceforjunior that sought justice for the teen.

Emotional vigils have been held in the years following the 15-year-old's death.

In 2019, Junior's mother, Leandra Guzman, laid flowers down at the spot where her son begged for his life. Standing there, she said, just made her think about how much he suffered.

"I feel the same day, it's nothing passing for me," she said. "I don't feel like any years gone on. I don't feel that. I feel like I'm in the first day," she said in 2019.

On the three-year anniversary, Junior's loved ones gathered all the same.

A vigil was held Monday to honor the life of 15-year-old Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz who was killed three years ago in a brutal gang attack outside a Bronx deli.

Justice would eventually come, but as then-NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said four years ago, "I don't think the family will ever recover in a case like this. It never ends for victims."

Five gang members have been convicted. One man sentenced to life in prison without parole and the other four serve 20-plus years to life.

Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, 25, who delivered the fatal blow by stabbing Junior in the neck, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors said that he was not remorseful and that, in fact, a correction officer found him in a one-inch sharp object in his shoe on the way to court that morning.

In court, he told the judge, "I'm sorry" and "My intention was not to cause death," blaming drugs, alcohol, and allegiance to the Trinitarios gang. His attorney says he plans to appeal.

Twenty-five-year-old Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, 23-year-old Jose Muniz, and 25-year-old Elvin Garcia were all sentenced to 25 years to life, while 19-year-old Manuel Rivera was sentenced to 23 years to life because of his age at the time of the crime.

Junior's parents delivered powerful impacts statements to the men who took away their pride and joy.

"They killed an innocent child," Junior's mother said. "Of all these men, not a single one of them said, 'No, no, don't do it.' That night, there were two deaths, Junior and I, who was left dead inside. As a young boy, my son dreamed of becoming a detective, so he could protect this city...Please make sure my son's dreams come true. These killers should never be able to step out of a jail cell, so they know the moment they killed my son, they took their own lives as well."

Junior's mom has since lobbied for putting panic buttons in bodegas. A free camp also opened up in after Junior's murder in his honor.

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