NEW YORK — Two top leaders of the Trinitarios gang were found guilty Friday of murder for ordering a deadly assault on a 15-year-old boy who was dragged from a Bronx deli four years ago and hacked to death with knives and a machete.
The depraved details of the murder were captured on video, leaving New York City in an uproar like few other crimes. The young victim, Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, had begged the store clerk to let him hide behind the counter after trying to evade his attackers.
Police say it was a case of identity swapping carried out by rival groups of a highly organized Dominican gang that gained a foothold in New York City after being set up in 1993 by inmates 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 residents outraged at the cowardly nature of the crime.
Five of the men seen on video assaulting the boy, who became known throughout the city by his nickname Junior, are already serving long sentences after being convicted in 2019, Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said. .
The two men found guilty Friday after a four-week trial, Diego Suero, 33, of the Bronx, and Frederick Then, 24, of Pennsylvania, were leaders of a Trinitarios set known as the Los Surés.
Witness statements revealed that Then – Suero’s second-in-command – called gang members to Suero’s house and ordered them to attack a rival set known as Sunset.
The group, carrying weapons, took off in four cars and stopped only to refuel, prosecutors said.
Junior, who lived in the Bronx and had participated in a New York Police Department’s “Explorer” program for students aspiring to become officers, was mistaken for a member of the rival group, authorities said.
On June 20, 2018, at about 11:40 PM, Junior was walking alone in the Belmont section of the Bronx, looking at his phone, when he was accosted. The men chased him for about four blocks and finally caught up with him when he tried to hide in the Cruz and Chiky Grocery, a bodega on East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue.
He then watched the attack from a short distance and later 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 comfort to his family who have endured so much pain.”
After the murder, a member of the gang sent a message to Suero, saying: “You are the one who gave the light for the child,” prosecutors said.
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 will 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, was not immediately available for comment.
In 2019, after the first five men were convicted, Feliz described life with unimaginable pain.
“There were two deaths that night: Junior and I, who were left dead inside,” Feliz told The New York Times. “If it were up to me, I would sentence these killers to 300 years in prison.”
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