Justice for Junior: Bronx bodega where teen murdered becomes 'Safe Haven Zone'

BELMONT, Bronx (WABC) -- A horrific tragedy has inspired a new safety initiative in the Bronx.

A bodega in the Belmont section was unveiled Wednesday as the city's first "Safe Haven Zone," seven months after the brutal gang murder of Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz.

Many in the community think the bodega owner didn't do enough to help the 15-year-old boy, who ran into the store as he fled his attackers back in June 2018 .

Since then, bodega owners have banded together in an effort to save lives and protect themselves.

They worked with the NYPD to develop a six-step program that includes installation of donated equipment, including a panic button that calls police, in-store cameras, automatic magnetic locks and bright lights.

"We need for these bodega owners to have the equipment necessary to come forth and not so much risk their lives but save the lives of others," said Fernando Mateo, of United Bodegas of America.

The city's first Safe Haven bodega was unveiled with a ceremony Wednesday morning.

"When somebody's life is threatened and they walk into a safe haven store, that bodega owner could lock the door, so whoever is chasing that person can't get in," said Mateo.

The safety features include surveillance cameras that can be monitored in real time by the local precinct once the panic button is pressed.

It is a voluntary program for bodega owners. The system costs about $3,000 to $4,000 that they would pay for.

There are about 20,000 bodegas in New York City. So far about 10 owners have signed up, but hundreds more are expected.

* More Bronx news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
* Follow us on YouTube
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.