The wake for 15-year-old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz drew thousands of people on Monday, just five days after he was killed outside of a bodega in the Bronx.
Lesandro, affectionately referred to as Junior, was beaten and stabbed to death by a gang of men on Wednesday. According to a report by the Daily Mail, police believe gang members mistook Junior for one of the people from a sex tape that showed a woman related to one of the gang members.
Shortly before the massive memorial, the New York Police Department arrested seven men in connection with the murder, six of whom were taken into custody during a raid on a known hangout of the Trinitarios gang on Sunday afternoon. The seventh, 19-year-old Kevin Alvarez, was picked up on Monday and charged with murder, gang assault and manslaughter.
The crowd of mourners and well-wishers reportedly spanned about two city blocks. Not only was the massive turnout amplified by the arrests, it came just after police released surveillance footage from the bodega where Junior was killed. The horrifying video showed Junior running into the store for a moment, begging for help, but the employees there kicked him out to avoid further trouble.
The teen reportedly sprinted down the block, hoping to make it to a nearby hospital, but he collapsed just outside of its doors. He was pronounced dead as soon as he was found.
His passing became a rallying cry for the community to stand against gang violence. Those gathered held signs with slogans including "Justice for Junior" and "Stop the Violence." Both of his parents spoke at to the assembled crowd, mourning their son but also vowing to stop the bloody cycle.
"He was a sweet kid with a very good heart," his mother said. The crowd chanted — among other things — "Close the Bodega Down," calling for a boycott of the establishment that had refused to help the teenager.
However, Junior's parents were reportedly as positive as they could be, taking their best opportunity to find some closure in the senseless death. Junior's mother told the people rallying outside of R.G. Ortiz Funeral Home about the son she had lost, and praised the fast response from law enforcement.
"I want to say thank you to everyone," she said. "The police are doing a great job with the arrests and I hope that they continue to go to the end and find all of the people who were involved."
His father, Lisandro Guzman Sr., spoke briefly as well.
"I need justice for my son," he said. "That's my Junior baby."0comments
Guzman held up his hand to reveal a tattoo of Junior's portrait smiling, the letters "R.I.P." printed just below it.
The suspects in Junior's murder are expected in court on Tuesday.