NEW YORK CITY - It was a bittersweet birthday for Leandra Feliz as she dedicated a new street sign for her murdered 15-year-old son Lesandro — known as Junior — at the site where the teen was brutally stabbed in June.
Feliz, a mother of four, smiled as she held a replica of the sign in her hands.
“It’s something that I connect with me,” the mother said at the corner of East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue in the Bronx, “to make him feel close to me.”
The teen’s father, Lisandro Guzman, joined Feliz, Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz, Jr, and Council Member Ritchie Torres to unveil the sign celebrating "Lesandro Junior Guzman-Feliz Way," across the street from the bodega where the teen was viciously assaulted by multiple assailants carrying knives and a machete.
“I want blessings for all of you,” Leandra Feliz said to the crowd that broke out in song for her, singing “Happy Birthday” just seconds after the sign was revealed.
One young woman presented a birthday balloon to Feliz, while others presented her with roses.
Feliz has become internationally known, ever since the story of her son’s chase and murder burst into the headlines, because of the surveillance video that captured his final minutes alive.
The street name honors Junior’s legacy and the impact he had on thousands of lives.
“This street will forever be the home, will forever tell the story of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres.
Guzman-Feliz, who was remembered for his “infectious smile,” touched the lives of many, from classmates to members of the community, according to his teacher.
Last June, Junior was chased for blocks by 14 suspected Trinitarios gang members, then ran into the bodega and tried to hide before the suspects dragged the teen from the store. Junior suffered a lethal slash to his throat. He tried to make it to a nearby hospital, but collapsed on the sidewalk and died.
Several suspects in the case are accused of first-degree murder in the savage killing. Nine other men will face a later trial on second-degree murder charges.
Since the teen’s death, officials and lawmakers have been working to find ways to protect children from gangs and other forms of violence.
Last summer, lawmakers proposed “Junior’s Law,” which would require small businesses to be a “safe haven” for youth in danger. Six months after Guzman-Feliz’s death, the bodega where he was attacked became the first “safe haven bodega” in the Bronx.