A member of the Trinitarios gang who witnessed the fatal stabbing of Bronx teenager Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz may take the stand against five defendants this week.
The first of two murder trials for the killing of Junior Guzman-Feliz began earlier this month, NBC4 New York reports. Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago (24), Jonaiki Martinez Estrella (24), Jose Muniz (21) and Manuel Rivera (18) and Elvin Garcia (23) were given second-degree murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, gang assault and criminal possession of weapon charges for the June 2018 stabbing of the 15-year-old.
It was previously reported that the leader of the Trinitarios gang assisted the police with information about the defendant but it isn’t known if he is the same witness who will testify this week.
A total of eleven women and one man make up the jury. During the first few days of the trial, the courtroom watched three clips from the harrowing incident that showed Guzman-Feliz before and after the attack. The teen was reportedly stabbed by the defendants in a case of mistaken identity.
One of the clips was never seen by the public and showed the attackers dragging Junior out of the grocery story with the teen fighting back as the gang yielded machete and knives. Later in the trial, jurors were shown 13 different angles and the six locations of the group looking for the teen.
As family members sobbed in the court, prosecutors claimed that Junior’s murder was premeditated given the weapons used. But defense attorneys deemed most of Junior’s wounds as “superficial” and noted how the cut to his throat was the cause of his death. They also claimed four of the defendants did not intend to kill Junior. The defense rilled up the court, including Junior’s family.
“Why would they need those weapons if they’re not trying to kill someone?” sister-in-law Ione Guierrez told ABC7. “I need somebody to explain that to me.” Junior’s father was later escorted out of the courtroom for using profanity as the defendants reportedly laughed during the trial. “These guys are sitting there, just looking at us, just literally laughing,” supporter Ilene Mariez told reporters. “The family got really really upset, and the father, towards the end, he was so upset he was using profanity,” Mariez added. “So they pulled him from the courtroom.”
Defense attorneys cross-examined witnesses like a woman who saw what happened from her apartment window. The witness said Junior motioned for her to call the police. After heading outside to help the teen, she said in disturbing detail his last word was “water.”
A total of 14 people are facing jail time for Junior’s death. The other nine suspects who are accused of taking part in other aspects of the assault will have a pretrial hearing dated for June 17.
Junior’s passing sent waves around the country as clips were seen on social media. A number of celebrities took part in the #JusticeforJunior movement like Carmelo Anthony, Cardi B, Lala Anthony, Rihanna and Wesley Snipes. The street where Junior died was changed from Bathgate Avenue to Lesandro Junior Guzman Way. He was also honored by the NYPD with a scholarship created in his name. The teen was a member of the NYPD’s Explores Program and had an interest in becoming a police officer.
“He was one of the good kids in the Bronx,” his mother said at the time of his death. “He has never been in any fight, never, in 15 years. He was innocent. He never grew up on the streets. He was with me all the time.”
If found guilty, the five defendants will face life in prison.