On the night of June 20th 2018, 15 year old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz [Jr.] was massacred with machetes and knives in a blood thirsty attack by several young men in his neighborhood “Bodega” [Grocery store] on the corner of 526 E. 183rd Street in the Bronx.
The killers were members of a street gang called “Trinitarios” who it is reported mistook “Jr.” for another boy who made a rap video showing the 15 year old daughter of the gang leader engaging in sexual intercourse posted on social media. The gang members converged on the corner store and pulled Jr. from behind the counter, where he thought he would be protected. The store owners, who have known Jr. since he was 5 years old, turned their back on the boy, as he was pleading for their help, he was dragged kicking and screaming to the front door, stabbed and hacked, torturously, while passerby’s, the store owners, and the killers demonstrated depraved indifference, all captured on security video cameras.
No one called the police, no one came to his defense, no one helped him get to St. Barnabas Hospital, literally two blocks from that corner. Jr. pleading for help was ignored. He staggered bleeding toward the hospital, where he collapsed. He bled out. He actually bled to death.
Jr. by all accounts was a good and decent boy known in the neighborhood. He was never in a fight. He was what may be affectionately described as a “momma’s boy”. His mom, also well known in the neighborhood, kept a tight leash on him. Jr. was not a gang member. Jr. was a member of the NYPD Explorers. A program for teens who aspire to become police officers. He went out that night, with his mom’s permission, after his friend called saying he was hungry. Jr’s mom gave him $5.00 to buy the friend an order of fried chicken, also on the same corner of his block. The gang members spotted him there, accosted him, and gave chase to the Bodega, where Jr. knew the owners since he was a 5 year old. They knew who he was. They watched him grow up. He ran there for refuge and protection.
There isn’t a bodega owner in the Bronx denied a legal gun permit or one who doesn’t have a gun, be it legal or not. The depravity of the murder is sickening. The depraved indifference of the store owners and passer by’s are bewildering. The depraved indifference by elected officials, not only in this case but for the community is infuriating.
There is a deficiency of honor, morals and decency when an apology issued on social media from the gang leader consists of saying the perpetrators were expelled from the gang for killing the wrong 15 year old. Apparently, his parenting skills failed his own daughter if the reports are accurate. His 15 year old daughter needed a dad not a gang leader.
Jr. found inspiration and refuge in the NYPD Explorers, though he too was cut down by street gangs. There are very few, if not any places for these kids to enjoy their summers in the Bronx like PAL, Boxing, organized sports, even etiquette classes and other apprenticeships, sponsored by the City, Borough or businesses. In my day, I had “Casita Maria” in the heart of the South Bronx. I worked for the Neighborhood Youth Corps. I delivered groceries for the local butcher and bodega on 161st Street across from Yankee Stadium. We looked out for each other and protected each other.
What happened to Jr. just happened to the entire Bronx Community. To every family in the Bronx with a 15 year old, there by the grace of God, we could have met Jr.’s brutal fate several times over.
Depravity killed Jr. Depraved indifference failed to protect him. In the absence of protest and outrage, here is a solution. Put money into youth services now. Community leaders, get these kids away from gangs. NYPD, Borough President’s and City council members repeat after me; “zero tolerance for street gangs, drug gangs, criminal gangs”.
“Justice for Jr.” will not be found in hateful revenge or torturous violence on the persons who ended his young and promising life. Justice is balance and honor. To avenge Jr. with honor and justice will not happen by taking more lives or perpetrating more hateful violence. It will be by saving lives like his, guiding youthful offenders away from gangs and demystifying thug life as an aspiration to a life style. Zero tolerance for gangs anywhere.
I implore my old neighborhood in the Bronx to show how much they care not only by candle shrines to Jr. or succumbing to your anger by inciting violence on anyone, or even shutting down that lousy Bodega. If they stay open or closed, it is up to you if you patronize it or not.
The way to honor Jr. is by uniting to create more Jr.’s. Good kids, decent kids, multiply them. They will make you proud one day and glad that you did. NYPD, zero gang tolerance. Your gang is bigger, better equipped and you have an entire community of Jr’s to recruit from. Get to it.
warning graphic video: