CONCOURSE, The Bronx — The mother of slain teen Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz yelled out at his accused killers in court on Wednesday.
It was an expression of the emotion surrounding this apparent case of a mistaken identity murder that both the district attorney here and the police commissioner call torture.
The mid-morning hearing at Bronx Criminal Court was the unsealing of the indictments against 12 men accused of the brutal stabbing and slashing of the 15-year-old Police Explorer cadet last month.
The teen's mother, Leandra Feliz, was the first major arrival at the courtroom. The victim's father, Elisandro Guzman, was next to arrive. The next major arrivals, however, did not enter through the courtroom's hallway door. They came instead through the door from the prisoner holding cells.
The indictments were read in a series of appearances in the same courtroom, before the same judge. He had the dozen men come before the court in a series of pairs.
The first two suspects, Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, 24, and Daniel Fernandez, 21, pled not guilty. Court officers then began leading the two back out to the holding cells.
That's when Leandra Feliz, Junior Guzman-Feliz's mother, let out a shout.
"Asesino!" she yelled — which means "killer," in Spanish.
The mother had to be calmed in the vestibule outside of the courtroom for a few minutes, while the next pair of accused murderers were being collected to face their indictments.
In the end, all 12 defendants pled not guilty to murder. However, as the district attorney pointed out after the indictment hearings, "five of the defendants are indicted on first degree murder, which includes torture," Bronx DA Darcel Clark said.
That description, of torture in the June 20 incident, was supported by the NYPD commissioner, who joined DA Clark at the post-indictment news conference.
"I gotta tell you," Commissioner James O'Neill said, "I've been a cop for almost 36 years now, and it was one of the worst things I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot of things."
All 12 defendants are suspected members of the Trinitarios gang. The seven who were not charged with first degree murder were indicted for second degree murder. All 12 are charged with manslaughter, conspiracy, gang assault, and criminal possession of a weapon.
It's why Feliz, the mother of the innocent teen who was mistaken for a member of a rival Trinitario faction, said she called the men killers, to their faces, in court.
"They killed my son," Leandra Feliz said after the indictment hearings ended. "They killed a baby, not a gang member. They killed a good boy."
None of the suspects has been granted bail. They all remain in jail on Rikers Island until trial, and at least three of them are being housed in a separate facility, apart from the general population, for their own protection.