NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Local leaders and elected officials called for action Thursday following the stabbing death of a 15-year-old boy in the Bronx.
The day after the funeral for Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, officials gathered outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church where mourning has turned to passionate pleas to stop gang violence in the neighborhood.
“Our hearts are broken. This has shaken us to the core,” said Bronx Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson. “We will never be the same again.”
Police said alleged gang members chased Junior down last week, mistaking him for a different teen who they were trying to take revenge on.
He was dragged out of a bodega and stabbed in the neck, police said. Cell phone video shows him running to reach the hospital one block away, but he collapsed and died outside the emergency room.
The teen’s death has become a symbol for the growing fear of gang violence in the Bronx.
“It’s not only about Junior. It means nobody’s safe,” the teen’s friend, Rafael Nitro said. “And if nobody’s safe and everyone’s out left and right then what happens to us?”
Friends say the teen told them he wanted to improve his Belmont community, one of the reasons he joined the NYPD Explorers program for aspiring young officers.
“He just always say he wanted to change a lot about the neighborhood,” said Nitro.
The New York City Police Foundation plans to give two $5,000 scholarships in his memory.
Junior’s family says he was left to fend for himself the night he died. They said surveillance video shows store employees let the suspects drag him out of the store and told him to leave when he came back moments later, stabbed and pleading for help.
“The owner did nothing or too little to save the life of a child who was facing a gruesome gang attack,” said Bronx Councilman Richie Torres.
That’s why some city officials are calling to shut the bodega down permanently. But police say there was a call from inside the store that night reporting an assault in progress, but when officers arrived, the suspects had fled.
“I will not comment much about the bodega, but I will comment that there were calls from the bodega owner or the bodega workers in this particular incident to send help,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said earlier this week.
Police said the deli owner and staff are worried for their safety, saying the community think they threw Junior out and alleged gang members believe they cooperated, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported.
Torres said he is drafting legislation to train businesses on how to react in these types of situations. He has also called for $1 million to be added to the city budget for anti-gang programs in the neighborhood.
Additionally the NYPD said it is investigating a video that allegedly shows two officers failing to properly respond once the 15-year-old collapsed outside St. Barnabas Hospital.
On Monday, social workers from Yeshiva University will be in the area offering free support services for those who need help dealing with the tragedy.
Eight suspects have been arrested in connection with the teen’s death.