Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

After Maspeth bar owner George Gibbons Jr. was killed in a hit-and-run accident two weeks ago, the community and the Gibbons family took action to try and bring to justice the man suspected of causing the lifelong Queens resident’s death.

On Tuesday morning, more than 100 friends and family members gathered with Queens lawmakers to offer an ever-increasing reward — it was at $10,000 by 11 a.m. — to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of Peter Rodriquez, 36, who was believed to have been driving the wrong way down the Long Island Expressway service road early Oct. 15 when he allegedly struck the livery cab Gibbons was riding in.

“Peter Rodriquez, if you’re watching, you destroyed us inside and out,” said Bernadette Gibbons, the youngest of the six Gibbons children. “Only a coward runs from his mistakes … you may be able to run, but not for long. We’ll find you.”

Soon after the accident, Eileen Reilly, director of the nonprofit Maspeth Town Hall, began hearing about the accident from numerous friends and family members of the Gibbonses.

She approached elected officials about starting a fund and soon opened a bank account at Maspeth Federal Bank and began working with the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers program.

“We’re just hoping with these dollars being offered someone will give him up,” she said. “But it also shows how closely knit the Maspeth community is and how we all care for each other.”

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) helped Maspeth Town Hall get started with the fund and spoke at the gathering on the corner of 69th Street and Grand Avenue about her hopes that the money would get someone to come forward.

“Peter Rodriquez is out there somewhere, but there are people in New York who know where he is,” she said. “We want these people to come forward with tips.”

Plenty of Maspeth residents came forward with cash to donate to the fund to which Crime Stoppers contributed $2,000.

John Browne, a fellow Queens bar owner who had known Gibbons for decades, peeled off a check immediately after all the speakers had concluded.

“Hopefully, there will be some closure for the family,” he said.

Other friends of the Gibbons family still could not believe the bar owner, who was 37, was gone.

“It’s a shame. He’s so young,” said Maspeth resident Susan Hannigan, who could not believe Rodriquez would leave the scene of the accident. “No conscious this guy has? What about [Gibbons’] family?” she asked.

Gibbons was the owner of Gibbons’ Home bar and a DJ well-known throughout the community. He also was an avid New York Mets fan and volunteered and coached the wheelchair-bound disabled adults of the Mets softball team.

The accident that killed Gibbons occurred near 58th Street at about 7 a.m., when a Chrysler Sebring traveling the wrong way on the eastbound side of the LIE service road struck a livery cab, in which Gibbons was riding in the back seat, according to the NYPD.

Gibbons was taken to Elmhurst General Hospital and pronounced dead upon arrival, police said.

Both the livery driver and the Sebring’s passenger, 44-year-old Andre McKanney, of Jamaica, were also taken to the hospital, the NYPD said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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