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‘Junior’s Law’ would require small businesses to be ‘safe haven’ for youth in danger

NEW YORK — A new legislation inspired by the killing of Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz was announced Tuesday with the aim of protecting children from gang and other forms of violence.

The proposed Safe Havens for Endangered Children legislations, also known as "Junior's Law," would require that all small businesses be a safe haven for minors who are in danger or seek help. It was introduced by Sen. Luis  Sepúlveda and  Assemblyman Victor Pichardo.

"From this tragedy, we will bring about positive changes," Sepúlveda said.

The legislation aims to prevent another instance of violence like that which killed Guzman-Feliz on June 20. As the teen was being chased by cars of suspected gang members, he ran into a bodega near his home to seek refuge but the group of armed men found him, dragged him outside then set upon him with knives and a machete.

After suffering a lethal slash to his throat, the teen staggered back inside the bodega.

Video surveillance shows someone inside the bodega pointing toward the door, leading many viewers to believe that Guzman-Feliz was being told leave.

The bodega's owner later told PIX11 News that he had called 911 and the teen was pointed toward the door and told to run to the nearby hospital because the ambulance was taking too long.

Guzman-Feliz set off running but collapsed and died on the sidewalk.

"We want to make sure that any business owner or their employees who encounter a situation involving a minor who has been abused or may be in danger has a duty to try to help," Sepulveda said.

If passed, the legislation also would amend the education law to create safe walking home zones. Officials would work with local chambers of commerce to construct safe pathways to and from schools.

A separate piece of legislation would amend state labor and public health laws to require that small businesses -- those with 50 or fewer employees -- keep first aid kits on hand.

The teen's father Lissandro Guzman said he hopes the legislation passes.

"I feel very content and with all my heart I hope the bill that carries my son's name get's passed so it can prevent situations like this from happening again and so we can create more security for our beloved children," Guzman said in a statement translated from Spanish.