The police in New York have long used social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to track criminal activity and gangs. But Chief Shea said Lesandro’s case highlighted for officials the potential reward of engaging with communities on social media beyond collecting tips.
“I think the world is going to get very small for some of these gangs in the near future,” he said, “and I think social media is going to be a big part of it.”
Lesandro lived in a two-bedroom apartment in the Belmont neighborhood with his mother, Leandra Feliz, 48, and sister, Genesis, 17. In the living room on Sunday, his mother showed photos of him celebrating his 15th birthday and graduating from kindergarten. In one widely circulated image, he is wearing a jacket for the police Explorers, a program he participated in that caters to youth who are interested in law enforcement.
“His dream was to be a detective,” Ms. Feliz said. “Since he was 5 years old, he used to love to play with the police toy cars and always said he wanted to be a detective.”
Ms. Feliz said she was pleased that people were trying to help the police solve her son’s killing.
The last time she saw him alive, he had been playing a game of Fortnite on his PlayStation before telling her that he was going downstairs to lend $5 to a friend. When he took too long to come back, she called and told him, “Mijo”— Spanish for “my son” — “you’re taking too long. Come back.”
He never did.
“I feel destroyed,” she said. “They took away my life.”
A block away from the family apartment, near the Cruz and Chiky bodega on the corner of East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue where Lesandro was mortally wounded, hundreds of candles lined the ground, heating an already warm afternoon. Dozens of neighbors showed up to pay their respects, light candles and console each other. Mourners wrote messages on several pieces of cardboard hung on the store’s brick wall.
“A beautiful soul is never forgotten,” read one message. Another, written in Spanish, translated to: “How could they take away your smile, your happiness? You were a respectful, caring boy. We’ll miss you forever.”