“Killers!” the mother of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz cried out in Spanish during a court hearing Wednesday for the gang members who allegedly hacked her son to death last month in front of a Bronx bodega.
In Bronx Criminal Court, a dozen suspects pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the 15-year-old’s vicious slaying. Guzman-Feliz’s grieving mom stepped outside to be consoled by family members after her emotional outburst, which came as two suspects faced a judge, the New York Daily News reported.
Soon after the hearing, the 12 suspects were formally indicted in Guzman-Feliz’s death, according to the New York Daily News. The Trinitarios gang members were charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, gang assault, and criminal possession of a weapon, CBS 2 reported. Five of the suspects were also charged with first-degree murder.
Surveillance footage of the killing garnered national attention for its stunning “brutality,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said in a press conference Wednesday.
“The crime has shocked people everywhere for its brutality,” Clark said. “The killing of Junior has moved people to action to assist law enforcement.”
Guzman-Feliz died June 20 after being mistakenly targeted by members of the Trinitarios, a Dominican street gang, police said. The teenager was heading to a local bodega in the Belmont neighborhood to lend $5 to a friend when several Trinitarios members got out of two vans and attacked him, according to law enforcement.
Gut-wrenching video footage of the attack shows the teenager being dragged out of the corner store, then repeatedly stabbed by several suspects with knives and a machete on the street outside, according to Clark. Guzman-Feliz ran to a hospital down the street, where he collapsed and bled to death near the entrance.
“They killed my son. An innocent baby. He wanted to be a police officer,” Leandra Feliz told reporters outside of the courthouse on Wednesday. Guzman-Feliz was a member of the New York Police Department’s Explorers program, which is aimed at youths interested in criminal justice.
Guzman-Feliz’s murder was a case of mistaken identity, but there is no evidence that a sex tape was involved in the motive, as some outlets have reported, Clark said.
The indictment charges 12 suspects: Manuel Rivera, 18, Kevin Alvarez, 19, Jose Tavarez, 21, Danilo Payamps Pacheco, 21, Danel Fernandez, 21, Elvin Garcia, 23, Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, 24, Jose Muniz, 22, Luis Cabrera Santos, 25, Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, 24, Diego Suero, 29, and Gabriel Ramirez Concepcion, 26.
Diego Suero, the oldest defendant, allegedly led the group to his home to hide the machetes and knives that were used in the attack, according to the Bronx district attorney.
“An innocent young man with a great future was unjustly targeted and brutally murdered. It doesn’t matter that he was wrongly targeted and that it was a case of mistaken identity...it’s abhorrent at its core,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.
Bronx politicians recently introduced legislation called “Junior’s Law” that would require small businesses to call the police when a young person asks for help.