Gang Rivalry — Not Sex Tape — Led to Mistaken-Identity Slaying of Teen Dragged from Store
New York City police say the 12 gang members accused in the June 20 slaying of Bronx teen Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz believed he was in a rival gang — and did not think the 15-year-old had appeared in a sexual video with one of the alleged assailants’ relatives.
During a news conference last week, authorities clarified the motive in the “mistaken identity” killing. Their announcement reversed earlier information from police sources as reported in PEOPLE and other news outlets.
The alleged killers are members of the Trinitarios-affiliated group Los Sures, which operates out of Brooklyn, according to law enforcement.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said the Brooklyn gang and the Bronx-based gang’s subset, Sunset, are embroiled in a violent street war.
“They allegedly drove to the territory of the Sunset group, came upon [Guzman-Feliz] and chased him into a bodega in the Belmont section, where he tried to hide,” Clark told reporters last week.
He was subsequently dragged from the store in an attack that was caught on surveillance video.
Guzman-Feliz was in no way affiliated with any gang, authorities reiterated.
The teen, also known as “Junior,” had aspirations of becoming a policeman. He had enrolled in the N.Y.C. Police Department’s Explorers program, which guides young people who have expressed interest in law enforcement careers.
In the surveillance footage, the suspects follow Guzman-Feliz into the bodega and grab him. The victim struggles with the men, who start dragging him toward the door.
Guzman-Feliz yelled for help, an N.Y.C. police source previously told PEOPLE, and he can be seen in video clinging to the door’s frame amid the assault.
He was stabbed several times in the neck, according to police. He managed to run to a nearby hospital where he died.
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Clark, the prosecutor, said last week that speculation the attack was related to a sex tape involving a girl was eventually disproven.
“There was a lot of social media, and it took a lot of time to sort out a number of those things, but as far as we know at this time, there was no relation to any sex tape to this particular case,” she explained.
All 12 defendants — Kevin Alvarez, 19; Elvin Garcia, 23; Antonio Rodriguez Hernández Santiago, 24; Manuel Rivera, 18; Danel Fernandez, 21; Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, 24; Jose Muniz, 22; Jose Tavarez, 21; Danilo Payamps Pacheco, 21; Diego Suero, 29; Gabriel Ramirez Concepcion, 26; and 25-year-old Luis Cabrera Santos — have pleaded not guilty to murder.
PEOPLE has been unable to reach their lawyers for comment.