THE BRONX — Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz was supposed to graduate from Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School in the Bronx this week.
Instead, his parents will mark the second anniversary of his 2018 murder outside a Bathgate Avenue bodega on Saturday.
Yet the teachers and students who knew “Junior” in middle and high school classes haven’t forgotten the popular student, who was just 15 and finishing his sophomore year when he was fatally stabbed by a mob of Trinitarios gang members in what police called a case of mistaken identity.
Guzman-Feliz was included in a video tribute prepared this week for the class of 2020.
And he will also be featured in the yearbook, said one of the school deans, Arn Gay.
“I feel grateful for what they did,” said Guzman-Feliz's mother, Leandra Feliz, “because they remembered him.”
His former dean and basketball coach, known as Mr. G, sent a heartfelt message about the slain teen to PIX11:
“Junior, I wish you were present to receive your diploma as the rest of your classmates [did]. You were truly missed yet never forgotten. I hope you are proud of how I plan on carrying on your name through sports. Even though you never won against me, you will always be a champion of change in my heart. I love you.”
The chase and murder of Guzman-Feliz on June 20, 2018 made international headlines, because the final minutes of the teen’s life were captured on multiple surveillance cameras in heartbreaking detail.
Guzman-Feliz was spotted at about 11:30 p.m. near a park close to his home in the Belmont section of the Bronx.
A convoy of four cars carrying alleged Trinitarios gang members were hunting for rivals when they spotted Junior. The teen was chased at least five blocks, literally running out of his sandals, before frantically seeking shelter inside the corner bodega located at Bathgate Avenue and East 183rd Street.
Police said a total of 15 gang members were involved in the chase.
Several reputed gang members followed Guzman-Feliz into the bodega, while others paced outside with weapons. Junior was ultimately dragged from behind the counter and out to the sidewalk, where five gang members set upon him with knives and a machete.
The dying teen, who received a lethal wound to the neck, made a second, futile attempt to get help inside the bodega, before being pointed towards St. Barnabas Hospital a block away.
The teen collapsed outside a security booth before reaching the emergency room and bled to death. His last words were “water, water.”
Two years later, the five gang members convicted of first degree murder in a first trial last June are all serving state prison time. All face a maximum of life in prison.
But the eight other defendants who still await trial will be waiting indefinitely, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The accused leaders of the Los Sures set of the gang — Diego Suero and Frederick Then — were originally set for trial in February this year, but that was delayed by the death of one the defense attorneys, and then coronavirus.
“They’re not going to be going on trial this summer,” said Patrice O’Shaughnessy, communications director for Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
O’Shaughnessy explained to PIX11 the court system needs to figure out a safe way to bring back jury pools to the courthouse for trials.
Suero remains held without bail at the North Infirmary Command on Rikers Island.
Frederick Then is not listed on the inmate roster with the New York City Department of Correction, and it’s believed he’s being held at a facility outside city limits.
Five of the six defendants who will face second degree murder charges at a later trial are housed in the Manhattan Detention Complex in lower Manhattan. They’re charged with being part of the planning and chase that led to Guzman-Feliz’s killing.
Luis Cabrera-Santos, an accused getaway driver, is housed on Rikers Island.
Guzman-Feliz's mother told PIX11 the social media tributes for her son this week are painful for her to see.
She will mark the second anniversary of her son's murder with a small, private mass arranged by a friend.
The teen’s former dean shared with us something "Junior" had told him in 8th grade.
“I never have self-doubt,” the dean quoted Guzman-Feliz saying. “No one will ever change me, because that starts with me.”