NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The first five of 14 men arrested in the death of the Bronx teen known as “Junior” were in court Monday for opening statements.
They’re charged with first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter.
His attackers were allegedly members of the Trinitarios gang.
Leandra Feliz, Junior’s mother, was welcomed to court with a packed room of supporters yelling “justice for Junior” as she walked in.
Junior tried to hide in a bodega on East 183rd Street in the Belmont section of the Bronx, but was dragged out and attacked with knives and a machete.
Nine other suspects are also accused of taking part in the assault. Those nine will be tried at a later date.
Defense attornerys for five of the 14 suspects argued in opening statements that Junior only died from a knife put in his neck, and the defendants didn’t kill Junior or want to kill Junior, they only made it look like they hurt him to appease the gang’s leader.
Junior’s sister-in-law Ione Gutierrez didn’t buy it.
“How do you go to a fight with knives if it’s not intent to kill?” said Gutierrez.
Bronx Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dolan said Junior was in the Bronx’s Little Italy when the defendants mistook him for a member of the Sunset gang. She alleges the Trinitarios set out to take down a Sunset member that night in 2018.
The first witness to the gruesome killing at the Bronx bodega took the stand, and said Junior’s last words were him asking for water.
At one point during the trial, Junior supporters say a defendant looked back at the family.
“And laughing, literally laughing in their face. And I’m like, ‘What’s wrong with this guy?'” said Junior’s family friend Ilene Mariez. “The father got up and outburst, using profanity at them, so they pulled him out the courtroom.”
“They don’t feel like no remorse, they’re like ‘Ok, we did it, so what,'” said Junior’s brother Manny Ortiz.
But when Manny processes the thought of having faced some of the men responsible for his baby brother’s murder, his reaction?
“Ugh. Excuse me, this is so painful, it is. Honestly,” he said.
The trial resumes Tuesday at 10 a.m. where there will be more witness testimony and that notorious video will be shown to the jury.
One of the nine remaining suspects pleaded guilty last week. The other eight have a pre-trial hearing set for June.