An eighth suspect was arrested Tuesday in the death of a Bronx teen who was “brutally murdered” by a group of men, some of whom are purported gang members, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said.
The death of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, known as “Junior,” sparked outrage and a social media campaign using the hashtag #JusticeForJunior. Guzman-Feliz, who was attacked in a case of mistaken identity, was dragged by a group of men out of a bodega on East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue in Belmont, and repeatedly stabbed in the neck with machetes on June 20. The teen ran to a nearby hospital after the attack, but didn’t survive.
Elvin Garcia, 23, of Manhattan, was arrested and charged Tuesday with murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon, police said. Another suspect, 19-year-old Kevin Alvarez, of the Bronx, was arrested on Sunday and charged with murder, manslaughter, gang assault and assault.
Six other suspects were arrested in Paterson, New Jersey, and were expected to be brought to New York City to face charges on Wednesday after they waived their extradition hearing Tuesday afternoon, according to police and prosecutors.
The men were identified as Danel Fernandez, 21, of the Bronx; Joniki Martinez, 24, of Freeport, New York; Jose Muniz, 21, of Paterson; Manuel Rivera, 18, of the Bronx; Santiago Rodriguez, 24, of the Bronx; and Jose Taverez, 21, of the Bronx.
Members of the Dominican gang, Trinitarios, are believed to be among those arrested in the case, according to Shea.
“It appears we have a group of Trinitarios here; they will all be vetted,” he added, but stopped short of saying all eight suspects were part of the gang.
Members of the Trinitarios gang are also believed to be involved in a separate attack on a 14-year-old boy that took place along a portion of the Bronx River Parkway on June 18, according to police and a criminal complaint. Investigators believe there are connections between the two cases, Shea said.
As the investigation into Guzman-Feliz’s death continues, Shea vowed to leave “no stone unturned” until every person involved in the killing is held accountable.
UPDATE: Arrests have been made and more are anticipated. Suspects are currently being questioned. We thank the public for the outpouring of tips shared and we encourage people to continue to come forward and share them by calling #800577TIPS. The case is ongoing #JusticeForJunior pic.twitter.com/4a3um4XkMd— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) June 25, 2018
“We will not tolerate thugs on the streets in the Bronx, whether it’s Trinitarios or any other gang involved in behavior of this (type),” he said. “My heart goes out to the entire family.”
Hundreds of mourners lined up outside of the RG Ortiz Funeral Home on Southern Boulevard on Tuesday for a second day of wake services for Guzman-Feliz. His funeral is planned for Wednesday.
Kennie Pabon, 22, said he was good friends with Guzman-Feliz and described him as “a happy kid.”
“He was never into trouble, never looked for trouble,” he said.
On Monday, Guzman-Feliz’s mother, Leandra Feliz, stood outside of the funeral home and demanded justice.
“I need justice for my son,” Feliz told reporters ahead of the teen’s wake. “He was all the time a sweet kid, a lovely kid. He was an innocent kid.
“They changed me inside,” she said of the people who killed her son. “They changed my heart. I feel different.”
Guzman-Feliz’s father, Elisandro Guzman, said he had a tattoo done on his hand Sunday evening to memorialize his son.
“My heart is broken,” he said. “My son, he was like a best friend.”
The killing was described by Chief of Department Terence Monahan as “among the most brutal crimes” he’s seen in his career. Officials said Guzman-Feliz was part of the NYPD Explorers program and had aspirations to become a detective.
Guzman-Feliz’s family reportedly received messages on Facebook from the suspects saying they killed the wrong person. They allegedly meant to target a teen accused of making a sex tape with a girl connected to one of the suspects, according to the Daily News.
The public outrage over Guzman-Feliz’s death has also caught the attention of several celebrities, including Carmelo and La La Anthony, Rihanna and Bronx native Cardi B.
“Can’t stop thinking about this poor baby boy, and how his family must feel right now! I’m sincerely praying for your healing and #justiceforjunior,” Rihanna wrote in an Instagram post along with a photo of Guzman-Feliz.
A photo posted to Instagram shows La La and Carmelo Anthony posing with Feliz and a mural portrait of Guzman-Feliz.
“I wanted to offer our love and support to Lesandro ‘Junior’s’ family,” Anthony wrote on her Instagram post, adding that Guzman-Feliz’s sister reached out to her and said her brother was a fan of her husband’s. “So I asked Mel to go with me. I can’t imagine this type of pain and sadness.”
City Councilman Ritchie Torres said on Tuesday that he and council members Vanessa Gibson and Rafael Salamanca Jr., all of whom represent the Bronx, are petitioning the city Department of Consumer Affairs to revoke the business license for the bodega that Guzman-Feliz was dragged out of, Cruz and Chiky Grocery, citing the owner’s failure to help the teen.
“It was a complete failure of moral character,” Torres tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
A DCA spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the letter, but that no general business license exists in local law. Shea said there were calls made from people who worked at the bodega “to send help.”
With Alison Fox and Lauren Cook