NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Six of the eight suspects arrested in the brutal stabbing death of a 15-year-old boy are expected to return to the Bronx on Wednesday to face charges for the murder members of the Belmont community have described as a tragic case of mistaken identity.
It was a small step towards justice for the family of an innocent teenager police say was slain by members of a vicious street gang.
Police sources say the brutal crime was driven by revenge. Alleged members of the Trinitarios street gang tracked down 15-year-old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, believing he was the teen seen in a Snapchat video allegedly having sex with a cousin of one the alleged gang members.
Police said Lesandro, known as Junior, was dragged out of the bodega on Bathgate Avenue and 183rd Street and then stabbed in the neck multiple times. He managed to run to Saint Barnabas Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
A relative who did not want to identified said one of the gang members sent an apology on Snapchat, admitting they thought Junior was someone else at the time of the attack.
Nineteen-year-old Kevin Alvarez stands charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and gang assault. He made his first court appearance Monday evening, where he plead not guilty to the charges.
A makeshift memorial continued to grow outside the bodega where Junior was killed last week.
The teen’s parents on Monday said they were grateful for the show of support. His father showed off a new tattoo immortalizing his son.
“My heart if breaking, really break,” his father, Lisandro Guzman, said. “Thank you for everybody here.”
“A sweet kid, lovely kid with a good heart,” his mother, Leandra Feliz, said.
Another wake and vigil for Junior was held Tuesday. Police barricaded the area surrounding the place where Lesandro was stabbed nearly a week ago. Hundreds, if not thousands, of candles filled the sidewalk as a growing tribute to the boy who dreamed of one day becoming an NYPD officer.
The teen’s mother arrived at the Ortiz Funeral Home on Southern Boulevard wearing black and was greeted by the throngs of mourners with cheers and applause. Many said they never met Junior, but felt compelled to show their support for the family.
One woman painted a picture of Lesandro’s face, saying it was her way of trying to help the community and the family heal.
“I heard a lot about it on social media and it really affected me,” Tiffany Alfonseca said. “I felt so hurt, I can only imagine how the rest of the world feels.”
Community leaders led a march from the bodega where Junior was attacked up to Saint Barnabas, retracing the steps he took trying to make his way to the emergency room. As people demanded Justice for the slain teen, they also wanted to know just what happened inside that deli, and whether anyone tried to save him.
The shutters remained locked around the bodega where Lesandro was dragged from last Wednesday. Many blamed the owner, who they say should have done more to help him before he was stabbed repeatedly.
City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-15) wants the city to shut the deli down for good, claiming its owner turned a blind eye.
“I specifically asked the NYPD whether he called 911, and the NYPD said no,” said Torres.
The department’s Chief Dermot Shea refuted Torres’ claim on Tuesday.
“There were calls from the bodega’s owner, or bodega workers, in this particular incident to send help” said Shea.
Multiple CBS2 attempts to find the deli owner to hear his side of events have gone unanswered.
Six of the suspects were taken into custody in Paterson, New Jersey on Sunday. They’re slated to face a Bronx judge on Wednesday, when they’ll be arraigned on the same charges as Alvarez according to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Denise Clark.
An eighth suspect, 23-year-old Elvin Garcia, was arrested on Tuesday. He was facing manslaughter and related charges, according to Clark.
A GoFundMe page set up to help the family with funeral costs has now reached nearly $240,000.
Funeral services for Junior were set for Wednesday.