The last few moments of the brutal death of 15-year-old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, all caught on video, at a bodega in the Bronx, New York, not only shook up the whole community, but the whole world, And this is what it taught me.
Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, known as Junior, left home to meet with a friend on Friday night, June 20th, 2018 but ended up being viciously chased into a Bronx bodega, otherwise known as a deli, by members of a rival Trinitario gang. The video shows Junior running into the Deli and begging the clerk to let him hide behind the counter. Shortly after, the gang members walk in and start dragging Junior out onto the sidewalk, where they immediately start attacking Junior, with knives and machetes.
Right after the incident, Junior was full of blood and stumbled back inside of the bodega seeking a helping hand, but instead was sent away to go to the nearby hospital. Junior ran to the nearby hospital by himself but collapsed and bled to death before he could get help.
It turns out that the gang members had mistaken the teenager for somebody else. Junior was known for being full of life and laughter. Junior was a very genuine and funny person. Ever since he was little, he aspired to be a policeman. Junior also loved the New York Yankees baseball team and loved to play video games.
All five men that joined in the senseless attack of Junior were all sentenced to life in prison, after being convicted of murder and gang assault in June 2018. Police eventually arrested 14 people who were involved in Junior’s killing. The judge, Justice Robert A. Neary called the killing “senseless”, “savage” and “cowardly”.
Junior’s case launched an international social media movement with the hashtag #justiceforjunior. It grabbed the attention of so many people, not only the community, or all of New York, but everywhere. Hundreds of people attended Junior’s funeral, and every year people gather at the Deli in remembrance of Junior.
To this day I still don’t know if watching the video was the worst or best decision I made that day, because of how deeply it affected me. When I first saw the video, I saw myself in Junior, I saw the same 15-year-old girl I am, in that 15-year-old boy that he was. He was helpless! This could have happened to anyone, this could have happened to you! His whole life was cut short. His whole future was cut short! And for what? Where was humanity? Where was the compassion? Where was the mercy? Where was the helper? Where was the good samaritan? Why is society so numb?
There were too many opportunities for Junior to still be alive right now! Who tells a human to get out of a store, while gushing blood? What about the men who were there, and watched it happen? What about the nurses who were there, and continued to walk away? What about all the people who just stood there and recorded? What about the policemen, standing there, doing nothing, right in front of him? The hospital was not a long distance. He was dying right in front of the hospital. All he needed was a little help to get himself inside, and maybe, he could’ve survived. We will never know because no one ever gave him a helping hand.
It was after someone’s life, to realize the importance and effect a united community can have on human life. Not only the community but the society as a whole is numb, and we have to do better. This could have happened anywhere, at any time, to anyone. Take a look at Seth Smith, a 19-year-old boy who was walking on a street where he lived in Berkeley, California. He was killed then and there to a fatal gunshot in 2020. He got shot for walking! This is a perfect example of what could’ve been you or anybody else. Just like Junior, Seth Smith’s life got cut short. Seth’s dreams and goals got cut short. Seth Smith was supposed to graduate from UC Berkeley in May 2021.
If you and I were in that situation what would you do? What would I do? Would we walk past and pretend like it never happened? Would we decline a human being that is begging for their life? Would we just stand there and record? Maybe it’s easy for me to say since I wasn’t directly there at that time, but I surely know what I would not do.
When I say that I am so grateful to walk past the street or to do anything out of the comfort of my own home, without getting hurt or killed, I truly mean it. For this world, to be a world without crime and injustice is unimaginable, but for there to be no compassion or empathy! Those should be two basic human qualities! There was clearly no compassion or empathy shown for Junior.
Junior did not die in vain, he awoke me to see how valuable and precious my life is. It’s sad that it had to take someone’s life, to realize the value of mine. Junior’s case also awoke me to see how much I despise injustice. I think I and many included learned so much about injustice in the year 2020, and Junior’s case was just a glimpse for me.
This should serve as a wake-up-call . We as a society, need to do more than simply record and repost. We need to do more than just raise awareness. We as a society, need to do more than just speak words; we must put them into action. What are we doing to help make a change? What are we doing in our daily lives to advocate for causes we are passionate about? We need to be kinder to each other. Too much of the time tragedy and loss is what brings us together. We need love and peace to bring us together.