A witness detailed Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz’s last moments on Monday as the trial started for five of the suspects charged with his death, nearly a year after the teenager was dragged from a bodega in the Bronx and fatally stabbed.
Tamika Jones, 21, said she screamed from the open window of her fifth-floor apartment for Guzman-Feliz to run to the nearby hospital as he looked up at her moments after he had been stabbed in the neck.
"By the time we got downstairs, he was already in front of the hospital, collapsed," Jones testified. "One of my friends took off her shirt and put it against his neck to try and stop the bleeding. He had blood all over his body. He was trying to stay alive, holding his wound himself. His last words were water — he asked for water."
Guzman-Feliz, 15, a member of the NYPD’s Explorer program, was attacked by a group of suspected gang members on June 20, 2018, with weapons, including a machete, after being mistaken for a member of a rival gang set, according to prosecutors. The innocent Guzman-Feliz died after running to nearby St. Barnabas Hospital and collapsing near the entrance. The teen’s death, which was captured on a surveillance camera, sparked outrage among the law enforcement community, caught the attention of celebrities, and launched the social media hashtag #justiceforjunior.
A total of 14 suspects — alleged members of the "Los Sures" set within the Trinitarios gang — were arrested following the slaying, and had plotted to attack a rival group of the Trinitarios when Guzman-Feliz was killed, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s office.
Jones testified that she watched several men who were speaking Spanish drag Guzman-Feliz from the bodega, adding that she heard one shout that they needed to bring him on to the street because "there’s cameras in there."
"At first I thought they were just fighting until I saw all the knives," she said.
Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, Elvin Garcia, Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, Jose Muniz and Manuel Rivera are charged with first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon. If convicted, they face life in prison.
In her opening statement on Monday, Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dolan said the "pack of gang members" pulled off a "well-executed plan."
Dolan said that Guzman-Feliz "was alone, unarmed, defenseless, outmanned, out-armed by this group of men and their fellow gang members" and that they "dragged him out as he begged for his life, as he held onto whatever he could to stop this."
Kevin Alvarez, who was captured on the surveillance camera dragging Guzman-Feliz from the bodega, pleaded guilty last week and was expected to testify in the trial, according to PIX11.
Defense attorneys for several of the defendants argued that though they were present, they did not deliver the final, fatal neck wound and did not, in fact, intend to kill Guzman-Feliz.
Kyle B. Watters, an attorney for Estrella, accused of making the final slash wound to his neck, argued during his opening statement that punishment was part of the Trinitarios gang and "if you didn’t do what was required for you to do as a Trinitario, you paid for it dearly."
After court, Manny Ortiz, 31, Guzman-Feliz’s older brother, said the defense attorneys’ arguments are "nonsense."
"It’s so painful," he said, adding that sometimes when he is alone he breaks down. "They don’t feel no remorse, they’re like ‘we did it, so what?’"
Ione Gutierrez, Guzman-Feliz’s sister-in-law, said the defendants were not forced to join a gang, but did so anyway.
"You all went with the intention to get these weapons, which can kill someone," she said. "It was pre-meditated murder."