Tragedy hits Fifth Avenue

July 9, 2012 Heather Chin
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Local business owner Mohamed Gebeli was found murdered inside his store, Valentino’s Fashion, at 7718 Fifth Avenue, by family members who came to check on him after he didn’t arrive home at his usual time on Friday, July 6.

The 65-year-old was found with a gunshot wound to the neck inside the men’s clothing store at 11:13 p.m. – hours after he usually closes shop – and was unresponsive when police and emergency services units arrived a few minutes later. Gebeli was rushed to Lutheran Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

No one else was reported injured, although Gebeli’s son, Maurad, 30, was also taken to the hospital after collapsing in shock at the scene.

Nagdui Mahany, who works at 6M Hair Salon, across the street from the shop, said that Gebeli’s wife called his wife in Staten Island to break the tragic news. “I came right away [when I heard],” he said. “He is well known and respected.”

Gebeli was known as a family man. Rukaya H. said she saw him every day as she walked to classes at the Arab American Association. Lucas Espindola said his wife used to see Gebeli walk his granddaughter to school every morning at P.S. 127.

Mohammed Baydouin shopped in Valentino’s often for dress shirts and pants. “He was a nice guy and his clothes were affordable. It’s really sad. He didn’t bother anyone,” he said. “He’s been on the block for over 20 years and you would never think of him as having enemies. It’s a very small mom and pop shop, so why would you pick that store to rob?”

Basil Capetanakis, vice president of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, said that Gebeli, his wife, and their son and two daughters lived above his real estate office for the past eight years.

“He was a nice man, very quiet. Everyone likes him in the neighborhood. It’s really a pity,” Capetanakis said, adding that he had just seen Gebeli on Thursday. “He came in and said hello to the girls in the office. He was very personable.”

While it is unclear if there is any surveillance video available, Capetanakis – and the rest of the tight-knit community – is at a loss as to what could have happened.

“We are all shocked that this can happen in our neighborhood. In this neighborhood, we all get along and like one another,” he said. “We were doing so well with the BID and now this happened. It’s a shame.”

Gebeli’s wife and son travelled to Egypt to accompany the body for burial.

Police said that the investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made.

State Senator Marty Golden and Community Board 10 member Habib Joudeh are offering a total of $10,000 for anyone with information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.

With additional reporting by Denise Romano

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