BELMONT, the Bronx — Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, 15, is being laid to rest in the Bronx Wednesday, his promising young life -- with dreams of becoming an NYPD detective -- cut tragically short last week when he was stabbed to death outside a Bronx bodega in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
The teen's killing sparked widespread community outrage and spurred calls of #JusticeforJunior. So far, eight suspected gang members have been arrested in the case.
Funeral services began at 9:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in the Bronx, according to the church. The funeral could be seen live on PIX11's Facebook page.
Father Jonathan Morris, the pastor at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, said the service and a vigil on Sunday will pray for the teen's soul and eternal rest while also rejecting gang life.
“Thank God Junior was not involved in that, so he can stand out and say, this is evil and it was evil against good. It was evil against an angel, and that’s who Junior is for our neighborhood now," Morris said.
Since Guzman-Feliz's death, Morris said, the boy's family has demonstrated unbelievable faith.
“The family has set an example — it’s not about retaliation. Yes justice, but it’s not about retaliation. It’s about making sure that our kids do not get involved in gang life and gang violence and making sure our kids and streets, the good kids like Junior, are safe," Morris said.
Morris said the theme of Sunday's vigil will be "Be The Light."
“Which is making sure that we keep our kids out of the darkness and the evil that is gang life and gang violence, and inviting all of our youth to make a decision that they are going to choose life and light rather than death and darkness," he said.
Overnight, an eighth suspect, Elvin Garcia, was charged in connection with the 15-year-old’s death.
It happened as six other suspects -- Jose Muniz, 21; Jose Taverez, 21; Manuel Rivera, 18; Danel Fernandez, 21; Joniki Martinez, 24; and Santiago Rodriguez, 24, all reputed members of a ruthless Dominican gang -- are being shipped back to the Bronx from New Jersey where they were arrested.
Another suspect, Kevin Alvarez, 19, was charged on Monday. He pleaded not guilty.
All face the same charges including murder, manslaughter and gang assault.
Meanwhile, sadness has grown into anger in the Bronx.
Guzman-Feliz was dragged from a bodega near his home in the Belmont section of the Bronx on June 20 and stabbed and slashed with a machete and knives in an apparent case of mistaken identity. He staggered back into the bodega for help then, after not getting the help he so desperately needed, sprinted toward a hospital three blocks away. He collapsed in the street, mortally wounded.
The mother of the 15-year-old victim spoke out Monday as thousands gathered to pay respects to her son at his wake.
"My heart is broken. He was a sweet kid with a very good heart," Feliz said.
On Tuesday night, members of the community retraced his desperate and final steps in his Belmont neighborhood during a candlelight vigil and march.
A petition has circulated calling for Guzman-Feliz to be buried with NYPD honors. The teen was a member of the NYPD Explorers Program and aspired to become a detective.
A separate petition has circulated calling for the bodega where Guzman-Feliz was attacked to be permanently closed.