Five men were convicted Friday in the 2018 stabbing death of 15-year-old Lessandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, a killing that police say was a case of mistaken identity.
Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, Manuel Rivera, Jose Moniz and Elvin Garcia, who prosecutors say are members of the Trinitarios gang, were found guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, second-degree conspiracy, and second-degree gang assault.
Prosecutors said the teenaged Guzman-Feliz, a member of a New York Police Department youth outreach program, had been mistaken by his killers for a rival gang member.
A mother’s grief
Leandra Feliz, Guzman-Feliz’ mother, told reporters Friday she hoped the verdict would send a message that violence in the city would not be tolerated.
“My son was a good kid, he only was 15 years old, he was doing the best in the school, at the time when the tragedy happened,” she said. “He was in (NYPD’s) explorer program, he was a really good kid, he never been into any problem in his life.”
The killing sparked widespread outrage, coalescing around the hashtag #JusticeforJunior.
On the night of the attack, the gang members took four cars and came upon Guzman-Feliz, according to prosecutors. Guzman-Feliz had left his home and had just given money to a woman he knew in the neighborhood when he was confronted by the gang, prosecutors said.
They got out of their cars and confronted the teen, who then fled to a bodega four blocks away. The gang members followed him into the store and dragged him outside, where he was assaulted on the street, according to prosecutors.
Guzman-Feliz was stabbed and slashed with knives and a machete in the neck and body, according to police.
After the attack, Junior had enough strength to run to St. Barnabas Hospital, but he collapsed at the entrance and died a short time later.
More face trial
Eight more suspected gang members are set to be tried for their involvement in the teen’s killing. Frederick Then, Ronald Urena, Jose Tavarez, Danel Fernandez, Gabriel Ramirez Concepcion, Diego Suero, Danilo Payamps Pacheco and Luis Cabera Santos are due in court Monday facing murder, manslaughter and “additional charges,” according to the Bronx County DA’s office.
Estrella, Santiago, Rivera, Muniz and Garcia are due back in court on July 16 for sentencing. They face sentences of 25 years to life without parole.