NEW YORK – Two top leaders of the Trinitarios gang were convicted of murder on Friday for ordering a fatal attack on a 15-year-old boy who was dragged from a Bronx grocery store four years ago and hacked to death with guns. knives and a machete.
The depraved details of the murder were captured on video, rocking New York like few other crimes. The young victim, Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, had begged the store clerk to let him hide behind the counter after he tried to outrun his attackers.
It was a case of mistaken identity, police said, carried out by rival groups of a well-organized Dominican gang that gained a foothold in New York after being established in 1993 by inmates held on Rikers Island.
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More than a dozen men were charged in the weeks following the murder as tips poured in from locals outraged by the cowardly nature of the crime.
Five of the men seen on video attacking the boy, who has become known citywide by his nickname, Junior, are already serving long sentences after being convicted in 2019, Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said.
The two men convicted on Friday after a four-week trial, Diego Suero, 33, of the Bronx, and Frederick Then, 24, of Pennsylvania, were leaders of a group of Trinitarios known as Los Sures.
Trial testimony showed that Then—Suero’s second-in-command—summoned gang members to Suero’s home and ordered them to attack a rival set known as Sunset.
The group, carrying weapons, drove off in four cars, stopping only for gas, prosecutors said.
Junior, who lived in the Bronx and had participated in a New York Police Department “Explorer” program for students wishing to become officers, was mistaken for a member of the rival group, authorities said.
On June 20, 2018, at around 11:40 p.m., Junior was walking alone in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, looking at his phone, when he was accosted. The men chased him for about four blocks, eventually catching up with him as he tried to hide inside the Cruz and Chiky Grocery, a bodega located at East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue.
He then observed the attack from a short distance and then called Suero to report that his orders had been carried out, Clark said.
“We said we would get justice for Junior and this verdict does,” Clark said in a statement, adding that she hoped it would bring “some solace to his family who have endured so much pain.”
After the murder, a member of the gang messaged Suero, stating, “You were the one who gave the light to the child,” according to prosecutors.
Suero replied, “Yes, for all of Sunset.”
Junior’s funeral drew more than 1,000 mourners, forcing police to close the street outside the Bronx funeral home.
Suero and Then are due to be sentenced on September 16; each faces 25 years to life in prison.
The boy’s mother, Leandra Feliz, who attended parts of the trial, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2019, after the first five men were sentenced, Feliz described living with unimaginable pain.
“That night there were two deaths: Junior and I, who were left dead inside,” Feliz told The New York Times. “If it were up to me, I would sentence these murderers to 300 years in prison.”
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