Modesto Cruz, the owner of the Bronx bodega, where 15-year-old Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz tried to hide from the gang that persecuted him and later killed him, said Friday he tried to hide the adolescent.
Cruz told reporters that he began closing his deal when Guzman-Feliz jumped over the counter and jumped on June 20, according to the New York Post report of the press conference
"I remember me to his face, "he said. "He was so scared."
The teenager went to the store and jumped on the counter, as seen in a video from ABC Eyewitness News on Friday. While it's hard to tell if Cruz helped or stopped him in the bodega's surveillance shots, the owner said he had helped. He said he "tried to hold him down" and hid him from the gang members who were looking for him.
According to Cruz, he and another worker were "in a panic," adding that they were "only two people" and "scared" because they had no weapons.
"There were too many young children," he said. "What they're going to do to us right now, they're going to kill us."
After the gang members pulled Guzman-Feliz out of the bodega, Cruz called 911 to send the police, and the operator needed four minutes.
The owner of the bodega, Francisco Serrano, said that his client did what he could to help, and that when the gang members came to his shop, they said they should not "interfere". He called him "a hero" in his eyes because he "did what was humanly possible to save this boy's life." He wondered if the congregation wanted "three dead instead of one," since Cruz is not a police officer and is not "trained to defend himself."
City council members want his bodega shut down, PIX11 reported Tuesday.
"An owner who stands idly by while a 15-year-old is dragged out of his shop and murdered in cold blood with a machete is no longer worth doing business in NYC," they wrote to the Department of Consumer Affairs.
James P. O'Neill, the commissioner of the New York City Police Department, said Cruz did nothing criminal in Friday's eyewitness accounts. He added, "People need to think about what their actions were and maybe they could have done a better job, people are responsible for their own actions, it's a 15-year-old child."
The commissioner also spoke in defense of the NYPD officers who were on the scene while Guzman-Feliz was bleeding to death.
"I'm sure they did their best," he told a news conference on Friday at The New York Post . "Our focus must be on the people who committed this murder, not on the two policemen who stopped and tried to help Lesandro."
During the press conference, Cruz also said he felt "very bad" and wanted Guzman-Feliz's mother to know "they feel the pain too".