Borough President Eric Adams and the NYPD posthumously honored 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, an Explorer who was killed by members of a local gang in the Bronx earlier this year.
His parents, Leandra and Lisandro, accepted a citation on his behalf.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Leandra said. “I’m so proud to be honored tonight for my son.”
Guzman-Feliz wanted to be a detective. He was interested in solving crimes, and being a member of the police department.
Though his life was tragically cut short, it inspired many young people to take action. The borough president said after Guzman-Feliz’s death, there was a 30 percent increase in the Explorers program.
His stabbing and death were caught on video, which went viral, sparking public outrage. According to reports, 15 suspected members of the gang involved in the killing were arrested.
“It’s given life to so many of these young men and women who are now Explorers,” Adams said. “They saw something that happened that impacted the lives of all of us.
“As a mother and father of a beautiful son that we lost, we will always remember him and what he has contributed to this city,” he added. “You are a beacon of light for us.”
Soon after Guzman-Feliz’s death, the NYPD Foundation established a memorial college scholarship fund in his honor. A $5,000 award is given to two Explorers to be used for tuition or school expenses at an accredited college or academic institution.
“You may have lost a son, but you gained a family,” Adams said, speaking directly to the parents. “You’re permanently part of our family.”
First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker added that he wished the Guzman-Feliz family didn’t have to pay the price they did to join the family. He assured them that their son’s life wasn’t taken in vain.
“The groundswell of outreach from people in this city was significant, and it did spur an increase in people interested in what Junior wanted to do with his life,” Tucker said. “His spirit is still alive and well, and is an inspiration to all these young people today.”
The event honored commanding officers and Explorers from all of Brooklyn’s police divisions, including community affairs, housing and school safety. Each precinct in Brooklyn North and Brooklyn South were honored.
Tucker, a Bedford-Stuyvesant native, said when he joined the NYPD 49 years ago, he was assigned as a switchboard operator to the 81st Precinct. He posed his own life and achievements as something that’s possible.
“A kid that grew up in Bed-Stuy, and I’m now the first deputy police commissioner of NYPD,” Tucker said, “to me, it’s still a wild thought.
“You are our future and you will step into our shoes,” he added. “We look forward to having you.”
East New York native Yeslin Nieves, 17, joined the Explorers program because of her brother, who was also a member. He went on join the NYPD as an auxiliary officer, and later joined the Air Force.
Nieves said the program has been “great and educational.” She enjoys seeing how everyone works together.
“We’re like family, so I know I can always count on others,” she said. “It’s very nice knowing they have my back, no matter what.”
Nieves, who was assigned to the 75th Precinct, said she’s interested in both the law enforcement and legal fields. She learned not only law enforcement drills, but also about respect and leadership.
One thing she learned was to dress appropriately, a lesson she can take to whatever career she decides to enter.
“I will never forget it,” Nieves said. “I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for the Explorer program.”