He was the baby of the family, gone too soon in one senseless act of violence – and now his loved ones are demanding justice, planning a memorial – and asking for your help in catching his killers.
Gerardo “Jerry” Antoniello, 29, was killed on Wednesday night, September 9 trying to protect his family during a push-in robbery at their home on 95th Street and North Conduit Avenue in Ozone Park.
Reportedly, a woman working with the two male suspects had attempted to gain entry into the home by asking for directions, but Gerardo and his mother, Gaetana, 58, refused to open the door.
When Romeo Antoniello arrived at the home, the two masked men tried to rob him of the cash he had allegedly been carrying after closing the family’s pizzeria, Romeo’s on Cross Bay Boulevard, for the night.
After hitting the older, ailing man in the head, the perpetrators then proceeded to push their way into the residence, cops said, where Gerardo, who had just celebrated a birthday in late August, tried to defend his home and family. One round was fired, hitting Gerardo in the head. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital in critical condition, where he died early Thursday morning, September 10.
“We’re like walking zombies,” said older brother Angelo. “We don’t know what to do, what to think.”
Angelo told The Courier that his father, who refused medical attention the night of the murder, received a CAT Scan the next day.
Both he and his wife have since moved in with Angelo and have put their home up for sale.
“They can’t go back there,” he said. “It’s just too hard for them. Both my parents are horrible; it happened in front of their eyes.”
Angelo said that the night of the murder he was at home in his apartment nearby.
“I heard cop cars. My father called my cell phone; he was yelling hysterically in Italian.”
Angelo raced to the scene, where he heard his mother screaming and saw cop cars and ambulances outside.
He raced to Jamaica Hospital as his dying brother – who worked at P.S. 127 in East Elmhurst and who had just passed the test to become an engineer in schools – was rushed by ambulance.
“That picture of him in the hospital doesn’t leave my head,” he told The Courier. “I can’t get it out of my mind.”
Gerardo, who also helped his father in the pizzeria, was laid to rest on Monday, September 14.
At the funeral services, nearly 1,000 people filled Divine Mercy Church. A sea of blue saluted the dark wood casket as it was carried in by the pallbearers.
Inside, to the strains of “I will raise you up on eagle’s wings,” loved ones embraced and cried as the officiant told the Antoniellos, “There are no words we can say, nothing we can do to take away what you’re going through.”
Now, nearly a month since that fateful night, the family remains heartbroken.
“It’s been tough,” said brother Carmine, a member of the NYPD in Queens.
The hardest part, he said, is when one of his three boys – ages 9, 7 and 4 – ask for their uncle.
“It kills me, every time they say, ‘I miss Uncle Jerry,’” said Carmine.
They ask for him all the time, he said, especially the four-year-old, who asks, “Why did Uncle Jerry have to die?”
Carmine said that his partner has spearheaded fundraising efforts in Gerardos’s memory. All the monies will go toward a reward for catching the suspects, described by police as two male blacks; the first is described as tall with a thin build; the second is described as short with a stocky build.
“I want to get them off the streets before they do it to someone else,” said Carmine, who told The Courier that he hopes to have a $20,000 reward.
“The city has $12,000 through Crime Stoppers and the mayor’s office,” he said. “My co-workers have raised about $4,000. I will make up the difference. It’s the least I can do.”
“We just want to catch these guys, and I want to ask them why,” said Angelo.
The “Justice for Jerry” vigil will be held on Saturday, October 24 at 8 p.m. in front of Romeo’s Pizzeria, 134-24 Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park. All are welcome to attend.
“We just want to make sure Jerry’s memory doesn’t die,” said Angelo, who said that what he remembers most about his brother is laughing with him.
P.S. 127 is also dedicating its winter concert to Gerardo, and will have a tree in his memory, according to someone who answered the phone at the school.
“He was very much a nice guy, an incredible worker,” she said.
If you have any information about the case, or as to the identity or whereabouts of the suspects, call the 106th Precinct Detective Squad at 718-845-2260.
If you would like to contribute to the reward money offered, send checks to The Queens Courier, 38-15 Bell Boulevard, Bayside, NY 11361.