By Jennifer Warren
A crowd of Rego Park pedestrians made a dramatic citizen’s arrest Sunday afternoon after a reckless driver smashed into another car and sped away — coming within inches of passers-by as he wove through streets near Queens Boulevard, police said.
Witnesses pulled 36-year-old Christopher Gaeta from his car and wrestled him to the ground, holding him until police arrived, said Officer Gary Washio of the 112th Police Precinct, the arresting officer.
Gaeta, of 753 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a crime and reckless driving, said Sgt. James Foley, a police spokesman.
Gaeta allegedly hit another car at 4:40 p.m. while driving eastbound on the Long Island Expressway near 108th Street, Foley said. The gray, compact Subaru sped along 108th Street and took a swift right turn, weaving its way back toward the Sears building on Queens Boulevard, he said.
The driver of the car he was suspected of hitting on the Long Island Expressway followed Gaeta, said Washio.
As Gaeta approached 97th Place he came within “centimeters” of striking a woman and her son who were crossing the road, but he continued driving, said Washio.
But when he reached the intersection of Queens Boulevard and 63rd Road, heavy traffic forced him to slow down, Washio said.
“Witnesses said it looked like he was going to push another driver (into the boulevard) just to get through,” the officer said.
One observer ran to the car and pulled Gaeta’s keys from the ignition. A struggle ensued and the two men were joined by the driver whom Gaeta allegedly first hit, said Washio.
The men then tore Gaeta out of his seat. “That’s when everybody jumped on top of him and wrestled him to the ground,” Washio said.
Washio said the car Gaeta was driving was uninsured, uninspected and sporting license plates that had been reported stolen. “That’s probably why he was trying to get away,” he said.
“He just seemed pretty much out of it,” Washio said. “He was not well. He didn’t seem normal.”
If pedestrians had not taken matters into their own hands, others almost certainly would have been injured, Washio said. The streets surrounding Queens Boulevard were heavily trafficked with pedestrians, he said.
Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.