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Junior's Law: New York to introduce legislation requiring small businesses to be save havens for minors

Lesandro 'Junior' Guzman-Feliz was murdered outside bodega last month

Toyin Owoseje
Saturday 14 July 2018 17:19 BST
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Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, 15, was attacked at a bodega in the Bronx borough of New York on June 19, 2018
Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, 15, was attacked at a bodega in the Bronx borough of New York on June 19, 2018 (AP)

Following the shocking murder of Bronx teenager Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz outside a bodega, politicians have introduced legislation that will require small businesses to protect young children in their community.

Junior, 15, was dragged out of a convenience store and slashed with a machete by a gang around 11:40pm on 20 June. CCTV footage shows the attack and moment he was left for dead.

The tragic death that triggered the #JusticeJunior campaign has inspired New York State Senator Luis Sepúlveda and Assemblyman Victor Pichardo to propose Safe Havens for Endangered Children legislations, also called 'Junior's Law'.

Speaking alongside some of Junior’s family members outside at a press conference at the bodega where he sought help, Mr Sepulveda said more needed to be done to protect children in danger.

"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,” he said. "Community businesses should be safe havens for our youth. They should promptly notify police.”

He added that another measure of the bill would ensure that small businesses to have first aid kits on hand “to help those who are injured to save lives”.

The proposed bill has the support of Junior’s father Lissandro Guzman, who said in a statement: "I feel very content and with all my heart I hope the bill that carries my son's name gets passed so it can prevent situations like this from happening again and so we can create more security for our beloved children.”

If passed, businesses that fails to “provide a safe refuge for a child who had physical injury inflicted upon him or is in imminent danger of such injury until authorities arrive,” would face penalties.

In the wake of Junior’s murder much of the anger was directed at the bodega, where he had sought refuge from the gang members. Surveillance footage from inside the Cruz and Chiky Grocery store showed the moment he rushed into the store and jumped over the counter.

Store owner Modesto Cruz said at the time that he tried to help the teen by letting him hide behind the counter, but the gang threatened him.

"When somebody go and jump all over the counter my first reaction was stop it," he recalled. “When he get down again and I recognised him and he came back again, so I tried to hold him I don't know what's going on. And when he told me they're looking for me, they're running for me, so I helped him bring him down.”

After the attack, the bleeding boy, who was a pupil at the Dr Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School, ran back into the bodega. In the video, a man appears to be pointing to the door.

Mr Cruz said he did not ask Junior to leave but he was pointing to a local hospital a block away, adding that he made two 911 calls from inside the deli but the emergency services were taking too long to arrive.

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