NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police have arrested five gang members in connection to the vicious slaying of a 15-year-old boy outside a bodega in the Bronx Wednesday night, sources tell CBS2.
It was a step towards justice in the wake of what the family and friends of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz say was a tragic and fatal case of mistaken identity.
“Thank God they were caught,” Lesandro’s mother, Leandra Feliz, told CBS2. “It’s good because they have to pay but I want my son back. If they could give me the life of my son I’d be happy.”
Investigators say Lesandro, who had dreamed of one day becoming an NYPD detective, was stabbed by members of a local gang following an altercation inside a bodega in the Belmont section on June 20.
Leandra says her son, also known as Junior, left their apartment to lend someone $5 but never came back.
“I called him because I feel like ‘you take too long. I said come on, come on’,” the teen’s mother told CBS2. “He said ‘oh yeah mommy, it’s okay I give him the five dollars, it’s okay I’m coming home’.”
Surveillance video shows the suspects enter the bodega at Bathgate Avenue and East 183rd Street, where police say they dragged Lesandro onto the street. The video then shows a man with what appears to be a large knife enter the mix.
He’s one of at least five men police were looking for after they say Lesandro was stabbed repeatedly in the neck.
The teen managed to run to Saint Barnabas Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Community members gathered outside the bodega, where a makeshift memorial continued to grow Saturday night. Police also set up posters around the neighborhood offering a $25,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
Meanwhile, a relative of Lesandro’s who didn’t want his face on camera says a gang member sent a SnapChat message saying the assailants thought Junior was someone else at the time of the attack.
Police sources tell CBS2 three of the suspects were arrested in Paterson, New Jersey, while the other two were taken into custody in the Bronx. At least one of the men arrested is being eyed in connection to the stabbing of a 14-year-old boy on Tuesday.
The NYPD says one of the suspects, 19-year-old Kevin Alvarez of the Bronx, has been charged with second degree murder and gang assault. Charges are pending against the remaining suspects.
“Oh my God I’m so happy,” Junior’s sister-in-law Ione Gutierrez-Feliz said. “We want them all to pay, life without parole.”
The New York City PBA said the teen’s death “is proof that we cannot rest or retreat.”
“We will carry on his memory, until the streets are safe for all,” the association tweeted.
Lesandro’s family opened a GoFundMe account titled “Justice for Junior” which by Sunday afternoon had raised more than $100,000.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782), visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.