Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz Child Victim Protection Act
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The death of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz—specifically the brutal way the Bronx teen lost any chance at his survival—has since enthralled the nation’s heart. This innocent boy—someone who could have been your son, your grandson, your brother, your cousin, or nephew—was slaughtered on an unbearable display for all to watch.
What can be seen from video surveillance is this: The savage acts of five gang members, dragging Junior outside of his neighborhood bodega and stabbing him multiple times with a machete and knives.
What can be felt from the video is this: Pure helplessness.
Junior continued his struggle for survival after his attackers fled the scene. He yelled to neighbors and onlookers to “dial 911.” Perhaps an unfortunate sign of the times, no one used their phones to call for help, but instead, recorded the scene to post on various social media platforms. Realizing he would not receive the assistance he so desperately needed, Junior struggled through his final moments alone. His strength allowed him to run nearly three blocks towards St. Barnabas hospital where, sadly, he arrived too late and took his last breath on the sidewalk outside of the emergency room doors.
When tragedies occur, people often wonder what could have gone differently. Grieving family members and friends struggle with the idea that their loved one would still be alive if the events were altered, even slightly.
This is not the case here. Junior’s life could not have been saved. Junior’s live should have been saved. Junior would still be alive if the people around him undertook a minimum degree of civic duty to protect the life of a dying child.
Unfortunately, there is no legal “duty to act” in situations like these. Under New York law, the passersby who spectated, recorded, and posted Junior’s death have not committed any crime. By virtue of legislation, we can create a meaningful way to honor Junior’s legacy so that children like him are never abandoned by their communities again.
By sharing responsibility for public safety, the citizens of New York need to collectively call upon state lawmakers to enact legislation that would create a legal “duty to act” upon any person, who reasonably believes that a child(ren), under the age of 16, is exposed to, or has suffered, grave physical harm. These witnesses shall be required to immediately report the incident to authorities or assist the victim, under reasonable and safe circumstances. This proposed legislation, the “Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz Child Victim Protection Act,” will impose criminal and civil sanctions against any person, who fails to notify authorities, in situations like the ones highlighted above. Similar laws creating a “duty to act” have been enacted in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Junior fought for his life. For several long minutes he sought help from members of his community—some who have known him for his entire life—to which not one person acted. They failed Junior. We all failed Junior. Let us make sure we don’t fail him again.
Junior’s life shall not be lost in vain. We need 100,000 signatures to initiate a change.
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