The bodega owner who was highly criticized for his reaction when Lesandro “Junior" Guzman-Feliz fled from his attackers in his store the night the teen was brutally slain on a Bronx corner has spoken out for the first time since that harrowing night on June 20, 2018.
Junior, 15, was brutally stabbed on the corner of East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue by several alleged members of the Trinitarios gang in a case of mistaken identity, police said. The slaying was caught on surveillance footage and made national headlines for its level of brutality.
In footage from that night, Junior ran into the corner store apparently asking the store's owner, Modesto Cruz, for help. During an episode of MTV's new series "True Life Crime," Cruz said the store was set to close at 11 p.m. that summer night, but they’d stayed open longer and Junior had barged into the store for help around 11:37 p.m.
Junior can be seen jumping over the counter to hide before several Trinitarios rush in demanding that Cruz release him. Cruz said he had no idea what was going on.
“Anyone’s reaction behind a counter, seeing a person sitting on the counter without saying anything, I think would react like that…” Cruz said. “The guys that were behind him were already at the door and pushing the door.”
Cruz, who is under a gag order by police, couldn’t go into too much detail, but he said after the men dragged Junior out of the store, he called the police twice.
“They were asking so many questions, and I just wanted them to send help immediately,” Cruz said told MTV News host Dometi Pongo and social media activist Sashi Merci, who is from the Bronx.
Cruz added that he suffered a lot of trauma after Junior’s death. He was receiving death threats, and he said when his mother saw the video, she suffered a heart attack and died.
“I’m still in psychological treatment because I’m not okay,” Cruz said. “My life changed; my mind changed.”
After Junior’s death, “Justice for Junior” began to trend on social media. The senseless murder was the source of much outrage, with celebrities advocating for justice for the teen as well.
Eventually 14 people were arrested and charged in connection to the teen’s death. It was later determined the gang had thought Junior was a member of a rival gang.
Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, Elvin Garcia, Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, Jose Muniz and Manuel Rivera were convicted of first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy and gang assault.
Five members of the crew allegedly responsible for Junior’s death have been found guilty. Eight others are still awaiting trial.