The owner of a Bronx bodega — accused of not doing enough to help a teenager who was brutally stabbed outside before he died — is in the process of selling the store, a leader of a local bodega association told NY1 on Wednesday night.
Police said Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz, 15, was dragged out of the Cruz and Chiky bodega in the Belmont section of the Bronx by suspected gang members and attacked with a machete and knives on June 20. The 15-year-old was pronounced dead at a local hospital. It is believed to be a case of mistaken identity. 12 alleged street gang members have been charged in the killing of the teenager.
Community advocates, and some members of the victim's family, have said the bodega owner did not do enough to help the teenager. The bodega has been closed since Guzman-Feliz's killing, and some people in the community have called for it to permanently shutter.
Surveillance video shows a group of men dragging the teenager out of the bodega on East 183rd St. and Bathgate Ave. A man who was behind the counter isn't seen intervening when Guzman-Feliz was dragged out. The bodega owner has said he and the worker tried to help the teen and hide him from the attackers but they were threatened with violence.
Frank Marte, the leader of a local bodega association, told NY1 on Wednesday evening that the bodega owner, Modesto Cruz, felt pressured by community outrage to the killing and calls for the store to close in the wake of the surveillance video, which has gone viral. Marte said he had spoken to Guzman-Feliz's family as well.
Lisandro Guzman, the father of the teenager, said he fears the same family would essentially try to control the bodega through someone else's name.
Guzman also told NY1 that opening a store in the space would be an insult to his son's memory. "I know people want to make money because that's the point, but my point is it's not good to open this bodega right now. This corner and this bodega, they killed my son," Guzman said.
Guzman said he would rather see the space open as a type of community center as a tribute to the life his son should have lived.
Meanwhile, the city's medical examiner confirmed earlier Wednesday the official cause of death of the teenager: A stab wound to the neck.
12 men charged in the case have pleaded not guilty. They face a slew of charges, ranging from murder to manslaughter, in connection to Guzman-Feliz's killing. If convicted, the defendants face the possibility of life in prison without parole.
Authorities have said they have made more than 70 felony arrests linked to the Trinitarios gang, which the defendants are alleged to be members of, and hinted they may not be done rounding up suspects in the case of the slain teenage boy.
The killing of Guzman-Feliz sparked outrage on social media, with the hashtag #JusticeForJunior being picked up around the country. Some athletes and celebrities, including Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, rapper Cardi B, and singer Rihanna, have also called for justice and have expressed their condolences.
Guzman-Feliz was a member of the NYPD Explorers Program and had dreams of becoming a detective.