By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Store owners in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge are on edge in the wake of reports that police have linked the murders of two merchants to the same gun.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs Paul Browne told reporters that police believe the same gun was used to kill both Isaac Kadare, owner of the Amazing 99 Cent Deals store at 1877 86th St. in Bensonhurst, and Mohamed Gebeli, proprietor of Valentino Fashion, at 7718 Fifth Ave. in Bay Ridge. He also said that in both instances, the bodies were left in similar positions.
The murder weapon was a .22 caliber pistol, the Daily News reported.
Kadare was found shot to death inside his 99-cent store at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 2, police said. The 59-year-old victim had been shot in the head and stabbed in the neck, police said.
The murder took place nearly one month after Gebeli was found inside his clothing store with a bullet wound in his neck. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Lutheran Medical Center. Gebeli was killed on July 6.
Both men appeared to have been killed around closing time, according to reports.
Police are also looking into the possibility that the killer is fixated on addresses containing the numbers 1, 7, and 8, according to the Daily News. Both murder scenes are stores with addressing containing some variation of those numbers.
Police have stepped up patrols of the two shopping strips — 86th Street in Bensonhurst and Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge — and have distributed posters containing a sketch of a suspect to merchants in the two neighborhoods.
The posters could be seen in the windows of nearly every shop on 86th Street between 18th and 20th avenues.
“Am I concerned? Yes, I’m concerned. I’m trying to be a little more careful, especially at closing time,” said a man who answered the phone at Kid Dynamite Furniture, at 1915 86th St., on Monday. The children’s furniture store is located a block away from the store in which Kadare was killed.
The man from Kid Dynamite Furniture, who asked that only his first name, Michael, be used for publication, said he felt safer because of a large police presence on 86th Street since the murder.
“I definitely feel safer with all the cops here. I’m glad we live in a big city where you can have enough cops to use as backup,” he said.
Michael added that he knew Kadare.
“I knew him vey well. He was a great guy. He never argued with a customer. If a customer wanted their money back, he gave them their money back,” he said.
Kadare, a Sephardic Jew, was born in Egypt. Gebeli, 65, who was Muslim, was also born in Egypt.
Kadare had been shot in the head and stabbed in the neck. Gebeli was shot once in the neck, police said.
“Both victims were senselessly killed and the NYPD is utilizing a great number of resources to investigate, identify, and apprehend those who are responsible for these pointless crimes,” stated Ilene Sacco, president of the 68th Precinct Community Council.
At the request of Capt. Richard DiBlasio, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, Sacco e-mailed the suspect’s sketch to hundreds of people on the council’s mailing list.
Rewards have been posted by various officials and community organizations seeking to assist the police investigations into the two murders. The reward money will be paid to anyone who provides police with information leading to the killer.
State Sen. Marty Golden is offering a $5,000 reward in each murder case. Habib Joudeh, owner of Pharmacy on Fifth, has contributed $5,000 along with Golden’s reward, to help solve the July 6 murder of Gebeli.
“The murder of these two business owners trying to fulfill the American dream and provide for their family has devastated two families, and has shocked, saddened and put on alert the Southwest Brooklyn community. I continue to speak with the New York City Police Department as the investigations continue and have been assured of an increased police presence. We must solve these murders,” Golden, a former police officer, said. “My sympathies are with the Kadare and Gebeli families at this time. For the sake of these families and for the safety of all, I again encourage anyone who may have witnessed something to contact the authorities. All information is important to solve crimes such as these.”
Golden’s reward to help solve the murder of Kadare adds to the $5,000 offered by Councilman David Greenfield and the Sephardic Community Federation in the Kadare case.
“I am deeply saddened that such a horrific act took place in our community, as there is no place for this type of violence in our society,” Greenfield said. “My condolences to the family of Isaac Kadare, including his wife and four children. By all accounts, Mr. Kadare was a kind, caring and devoted family man who never hesitated to help those in need. I am joining with the Sephardic Community Federation to offer $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for this heinous crime.”
“We must stand together as a community and make sure the perpetrator is held accountable and taken off our streets as soon as possible,” the councilman said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the 62nd Precinct at (718) 236-2611, or the 68th Precinct at (718) 439-4211, or visit the Crime Stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.