The owner of a Bronx bodega accused of doing nothing while a gang pulled a teenager out of his store and murdered him says he did what he could to help the doomed boy.
“He told me, ‘They looking for me. They looking for me, they running for me.’ So I help him,” Modesto Cruz said, describing the moment Lesandro (Junior) Guzman-Feliz, 15, ran into his store and jumped onto the counter seeking haven.
“He was so scared. I remember his face,” Cruz, owner of the Cruz and Chiky Grocery in Belmont told WABC-TV on Friday.
Cruz claims he tried to hold Lesandro down behind the counter, but the murderous goons spotted the teen and yanked him out of the shop on E. 183rd St. and Bathgate Ave.
“We (were) scared at the moment. … What we could do?” he said.
He says he called 911 at 11:39 p.m.
“I spent four minutes with (the) operator. She was asking me too many questions. I say, ‘Please send the police, please send the police,” Cruz explained.
When first responders arrived, Lesandro had already stumbled about a block and a half away to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he died.
Harrowing surveillance video from inside the bodega appeared to show store employees standing as the teenager is dragged out by several alleged members of the notorious Trinitarios gang.
The footage went viral on social media, prompting many to question the employees’ reaction with the hashtag #JusticeforJunior.
Another clip shows Cruz trying to hide Lesandro behind the counter moments before several of the assailants walk in.
“They (the gang) said, ‘Don’t get involved, this is not your problem,’” Cruz’s lawyer Francisco Serrano said. “He did what he did under the experience and the moment that he lived. To ask him to do something differently at this stage is to call for a speculation.”
“He’s the bad guy now.”
Several City Council members called for Cruz and Chiky Grocery to be shut down because it was “no longer worthy of doing business in NYC.”
Serrano urged people not to rush to judgement.
“In order to close the store there needs to be due process,” he said. “We’re gonna respect the community. We’re gonna be talking to the community.”
Eight men have been arrested in connection with the murder. All face charges ranging from murder to assault.