Lesandro (Junior) Guzman-Feliz, murdered by machete-wielding gang-bangers, lives on in his old neighborhood.
His visage stares down from newly painted murals and adorns glass votive candles. Helium-filled balloons, wafting in the warm June breeze, spell out his nickname. A sprawling, homemade memorial marks the Bronx sidewalk where the 15-year-old died in a savage case of mistaken identity.
And a steady line of mourners, some still shedding tears, visit the murder scene daily to leave a stuffed animal or small bouquet behind — and depart with Junior still in their hearts.
“Our little brother,” said Tyriek Anderson, 20, invoking the slain teen in a call for peace and justice. “We’ve got to come together. We’ve got to stop it.”
The tributes started spontaneously within hours of the June 20 murder, where malevolent members of the Trinitarios gang carved up the innocent Junior with machetes and a knife. The mortally wounded youth staggered to nearby St. Barnabas Hospital, where he collapsed and died.
What started with two milk crates of candles expanded into thousands of wax and wick homages lining the sidewalk at E. 183rd St. and Bathgate Ave. The memory of Lesandro endures there and throughout the neighborhood where the aspiring police officer and die-hard Yankees fan grew up.
“He was just starting to get tall,” lamented Said Raphael, 22, who first met Junior when the boy was just age 8.
Family and friends keep a round-the-clock vigil on the memorial, sitting on folding chairs or stools set up behind metal NYPD barricades.
“We’re like on shifts here,” explained Brandon Tang, 23, as he directed guests to the impromptu arrangement honoring Lesandro. “Some of us will leave and others will come.
“We’ll go home and shower. We’ve been out here 24/7 except for the funeral.”
Eight reputed members of the Dominican gang were arrested in the savage killing after the victim’s family said they were notified via social media that Junior was butchered by mistake.
A stark security video clip captured several Trinitarios dragging the teen out of the Cruz and Chiky Grocery, with their machete-toting comrades waiting on the street.
Leandra Feliz, the slain teen’s mother, appeared at a hearing Friday for suspect Kevin Alvarez, who remains behind bars without bail in the killing. Seventeen court officers flanked the suspect at his Bronx hearing.
“Justice is coming,” promised Feliz. “I will be here … every day.”
Artist Chris Pyrate, 30, was putting the finishing touches Saturday on a mural depicting Junior. The painting, a short walk from the crime scene, depicts the murder victim with angel’s wings composed of blue and purple flowers.
Friends and relatives of the young man will add their names and handprints to the artwork.
As much as the locals want to keep Junior’s memory intact, they can’t deny the obvious: The teen is never coming home.