Thursday marks one year since Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz left his home and never returned.
The 15-year-old Bronx boy who aspired to become a police detective was savagely stabbed to death on June 20, 2018, by five gang members outside of a bodega one block from his home in Belmont.
Now, the neighborhood where Guzman-Feliz lived and died pays homage to a life cut short. Murals of the teen pepper the streets near where he was killed, and a portion of 183rd Street near Bathgate Avenue has been co-named “Lesandro Junior Guzman-Feliz Way.”
The community also will come together on Saturday to honor Guzman-Feliz’s memory during the second annual “Stop The Violence” event at 184th Street and Bathgate Avenue. The gathering promises an afternoon (from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) of music, performances, raffles and games. Around 6 p.m., they will release paper lanterns and balloons into the air and hold a moment of silence for Guzman-Feliz.
Learn more below about the murals and street sign that keep Guzman-Feliz’s memory alive.
The mural painted on the side of the bodega at 526 E. 183rd St. at Bathgate Avenue, where Guzman-Feliz was attacked, has become a regular gathering place for mourners over the last year. In the weeks after the teen’s death, people would leave prayer candles and hold vigils in front of the mural.
Artist George Fernandez told PBS News Hour he was inspired to travel to the Bronx from his home in Virginia to paint the mural after learning of Guzman-Feliz’s death via the #JusticeforJunior hashtag on Instagram. "When I was a kid there was somebody that died on my block. Somebody painted a mural of the person that passed away and the mural is still there," Fernandez said. "And I don’t know who painted the mural, I didn’t see who did it but I know how it made me feel."
The mural on the corner of East 184th Street and Bathgate Avenue, which features Guzman-Feliz in a Yankees jersey with his nickname "Junior" emblazoned in a halo above his head, also popped up in the weeks following the teen’s death.
The artist behind the mural, which is located near Guzman-Feliz’s home and a block from the bodega, has reportedly asked to remain anonymous so that the focus remains on the slain teen, but two Instagram handles — @Distoart and @Turfwarz — are included in the bottom left corner of the artwork.
In a mural across from St. Barnabas Hospital, on the corner of East 183rd Street and Third Avenue, Guzman-Feliz is wearing his uniform for the Explorers program, an NYPD youth group that he was a member of.
Muralist Ashley Judith Serrano wrote in an Instagram post that she felt compelled to memorialize Guzman-Feliz "because he had dreams and a family. Because he had people rooting for him. Because he was a child fighting for his life." The mural sustained damage in April but was later repaired, and a piece of plexiglass was placed over the painting to protect it.
Artist Chris Pyrate unveiled his mural of Guzman-Feliz, called "Stand with Junior," in July. The artwork, located in a private parking lot at Third Avenue and East 184th Street, shows Guzman-Feliz with a pair of wings made of flowers. Another set of wings next to the teen’s image allows the public to literally stand with him and become part of the mural. Pyrate credited Guzman-Feliz’s friends for inspiration for the mural.
A stretch of Bathgate Avenue, near 183rd Street, will forever be known as Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz Way after a street co-naming ceremony held on Feb. 27.
Guzman-Feliz’s parents were given copies of the street sign to take home. The teen’s father, Elisandro Guzman, said he planned to put the sign "in the middle of the house."