Jr. Guzman’s mom: replace notorious bodega with a safe haven

Jr. Guzman’s mom: replace notorious bodega with a safe haven

It’s been just over two months since Leandra Feliz tragically lost her 15-year-old son Lesandro ’Junior’ Guzman-Feliz to one of the worst examples of violence in the borough’s history.

Needless to say it’s been a difficult time for Leandra, her family and friends.

“I still can’t believe what happened, it still doesn’t feel real to me,” said Leandra. “There’s been so much to process with this that I simply haven’t yet,” the grieving mother added.

Leandra went on to share the final memories that her and Junior had shared, which came just moments before the gruesome attack.

“He called me right before, he said he was running downstairs to give a friend five dollars, but he was taking too long so I called him back and the last thing he said to me was “I’m coming back now mommy,” that was the last thing that my son ever said to me,” Leandra said.

Just about every day now, she goes to her son’s final resting place in St. Raymond’s Cemetery to reflect on Junior’s life and the years of memories that the mother and son had shared.

On Monday, August 20, the two-month anniversary of Junior’s death, Leandra and many more returned to the cursed corner of 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue where the attack unfolded two months prior.

Lori Lapidus, a good friend of Leandra displayed an ice sculpture that contained a photo of Junior dressed in his NYPD Explorer uniform before the memorial in front of the notorious bodega.

Though, Leandra never wants to see that bodega do business again.

While it has changed ownership and management, all she sees is pain.

“This is a corner of death, nobody wants the store here. I don’t want the store here. I’ve lived in this area for 17 years and this is a troubled intersection, we need a safe haven,” Leandra said.

In the wake of Junior’s death, Lapidus has been looking into purchasing property on the block to convert into a safe haven and community center.

“I want to buy that bodega, I’m not sure if they’ll sell it to me though, but the plan is to buy something around here so that kids in this area can stay off the streets and that we never have a situation like Junior again,” Lapidus said.

Like the many of the other memorials for Junior, people passing by whom didn’t know the boy flocked around to pay respects to a fellow Bronxite.

One mother and daughter approached Leandra, telling her how courageous she has been during this awful time.

“My son was a good kid, he never wanted trouble and he never got in trouble, he wanted to be a police officer,” Leandra said while thanking the mother and daughter for their love and encouragement.

While Junior wasn’t able to fulfill his dream of becoming an NYPD member, the NYPD have treated the Explorer as a brother in blue.

On Monday, August 27, a thirteenth suspect in Junior’s murder was indicted while police now continue to hunt for one more gang member who they believe was responsible.

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