Thirty-one members of City Council have backed a bill that would reimburse small business owners the cost of a panic button, something the mother of a slain Bronx teen believes could have saved her son’s life.
Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz was dragged out of a Bronx bodega in June 2018 and stabbed to death in a case of mistaken identity. Now, Councilman Mark Gjonaj is pushing for a bill, dubbed “Junior’s Law,” that would make panic buttons more accessible despite the usual high cost.
“If they had thought before my son’s murder to use this panic button, my son would be alive,” said Leandra Feliz, Junior’s mother, at a press conference on the steps of City Hall Wednesday.
CCTV footage captured the moment when Guzman-Feliz was dragged out of a Belmont bodega, a block from his home and stabbed in the neck. The 15-year-old hoofed it to St. Barnabas Hospital but did not survive the ordeal.
Fourteen arrests followed Guzman-Feliz’s stabbing with five convictions, and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark identified them as members Los Sures, a gang associated with the Trinitarios. Outgoing NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the men were driving in four different vehicles when they came across Guzman-Feliz, who had no gang affiliation, and mistook him for a rival.
If passed, the new law wouldn’t hire a security firm contracted to install the devices, which are normally located under counters as a safer alternative to dialing 911. The city would instead reimburse the business owner the cost of hiring a third-party provider as long as there proof of purchase, according to Gjonaj.
The bill would go into effect 120 days after its passage and would task Small Business Services with implementing the program, according the legislation.
There would be a pilot program at first for businesses with less than 10 employees and a storefront entry that operate 24/7.
“I imagine this bill would be open to all small businesses that have cash, that are off the beaten path, that are not on main street,” Gjonaj said at the press conference. “It provides for a safe environment and that’s what our small businesses are — a safe haven.”