New York, NY – As over 1,000 citizens and police officers gathered to mourn the death of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz on Wednesday, prosecutors charged another six Trinitarios gang members in connection to the teen’s brutal murder.
Guzman-Feliz, a member of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Explorers program who dreamed of becoming a police detective when he grew up, was dragged out of a bodega by members of the Trinitarios, a violent Dominican street gang, and hacked to death on a Bronx street corner on June 20.
During the hour-long mass inside Belmont’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, NYPD officers “stood shoulder-to-shoulder” with citizens to honor Guzman-Feliz, the department said in a Facebook post.
Some in attendance wore pinstriped Yankees jerseys in recognition of the teen’s favorite team, while others wore white t-shirts with Guzman-Feliz’s image and the words “# JusticeforJunior,” the New York Post reported.
Jose Muniz, 21, Jose Tavarez, 21, Joniki Martinez-Estrella, 24, Danel Fernandez, 21, Manuel Rivera, 18, and Antonio Hernandez-Santiago, 24, were each charged with second-degree murder, gang assault, manslaughter, and assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon early on Wednesday morning, after they were extradited back to New York from New Jersey, an NYPD spokesman told Blue Lives Matter.
Hernandez-Santiago and Martinez-Estrella were also charged with first-degree murder, while Rivera received an additional charge of criminal possession of a weapon, the department said.
During a court hearing for the six suspects, Passaic County Deputy Public Defender Judith Fallon said that the men were “extremely concerned” for their families’ safety since their arrests, the New York Post reported.
“Social media has been very active about this case,” Fallon complained. “Their families are being threatened, children.”
On Sunday, police announced the arrest of 19-year-old Kevin Alvarez, who has since been charged with manslaughter, second-degree murder, gang assault, and assault.
An eighth suspect, 23-year-old Elvin Garcia, was charged on Tuesday with first degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, and criminal possession of a weapon, the department confirmed.
Investigators believe that members of the Trinitarios may have attacked the teen as retaliation for a raunchy porn video, which showed a naked teenage girl who was possibly related to one of the gang members.
In the video, which was posted on social media, one teenage boy rapped as another boy – who bore a striking resemblance to Guzman-Feliz – had sex with a girl whose face was covered with a shirt, the New York Daily News reported.
After Guzman-Feliz’s brutal murder, the 15-year-old girl in the video began receiving threatening messages on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, a high-ranking NYPD source told the New York Post on Monday.
Many of the messages blamed the teenage girl, who is also a member of the police department’s Explorers program, for causing Guzman-Feliz’s death, the source said.
The teen was subsequently placed under NYPD protection while the investigation continued.
In the wake of Guzman-Feliz’s death, an enormous memorial was created outside the bodega where his life was cut short. Many have called for the business to be shut down after its owners failed to call police when the 15 year old was attacked on its doorstep.
The memorial grew further still on Wednesday, as people lined up around the block for a turn to pay their respects to the slain teen.
Thousands attended Guzman-Feliz’s wake at the Ortiz Funeral Home on Monday and Tuesday, and many waited for as long as four hours for their turn to go inside, WABC reported.
"This is disgusting what happened, and we are standing up as a community and saying we need to be the light," Father Jonathan Morris told WABC. "We need to be the light in the darkness of this evil gang life and violence."