Concern rises over trend of mafia-related crime after shooting death of reputed mob boss

Posted at 9:13 PM, Mar 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-14 22:24:14-04

TODT HILL, Staten Island — The search for a gunman, and possibly other suspects, continues in the wake of the fatal shooting of alleged Gambino family crime boss Francesco "Frankie Boy" Cali. Even as the manhunt continues, concerns arise that the shooting, the first killing of a crime family boss in New York City in 35 years, may be part of a larger increase in mob-related crime.

The shooting happened around 9:20 p.m. Wednesday in front of Cali's home on Hilltop Terrace. Police remained on scene Thursday night, ensuring that detectives and NYPD technicians could gain access as the investigation continues. Investigators were expected to use a warrant to acquire the home's surveillance video system.

It would add to the extensive surveillance video from surrounding homes in the neighborhood that detectives have already analyzed.

"You see an altercation where shots are fired, muzzle flash from one individual to the other," said NYPD chief of department Dermot Shea, describing images captured on surveillance video.

Shea said that the fatal encounter happened after "there was a vehicle accident in front to the house."

A blue pickup truck apparently backed into Cali's silver Cadillac SUV, Shea said. He said that he suspected the collision was done intentionally to draw Cali out of his house.

The 53-year-old reputed crime boss's wife and children were home at the time of the encounter.

"He exits his house," Shea said. "There is a conversation. Whether it was an altercation or conversation" is still under investigation, he said.

"After a minute," Shea continued, "an individual pulls out a gun and shots are fired."

There were 12 shell casings recovered at the scene, Shea said. They appear to have come from a 9mm handgun.

The gunman apparently sped off in the blue pickup. Police are on the lookout for the vehicle. Shea said it's possible that there were one or more other vehicles involved.

The incident raised concern that mafia-related violence, which was much more common and more deadly in the 1970s and 1980s, might be making a comeback.

"I haven't heard that kind of activity in years," said Fred Guinta, who lives right behind Cali's home. "I would never think that was what was going on."

Mayor Bill de Blasio also reacted to the shooting.

"We thought those days were over," the mayor said at a news conference on an unrelated matter Thursday morning. "Very surprising," he continued. "I guess old habits die hard."

Chief Shea confirmed that mob-related crimes had increased recently.

"There's been several incidents, whether you want to go back three months, six months, nine months," he said.

The recent spate of crimes includes the graphic attempted killing of Salvatore Zottola last July. His father, alleged Bonnano crime family associate Sylvester Zottola, was killed at a McDonald's drive through in October.

Also, on Wednesday of this week, there was an indictment made for the October killing of Vincent Zito by alleged Gambino associate Anthony Pandrella.

Shea said that the increase in mob-related crime is a challenge, but added that a major thrust of the department's investigation into the acts of violence will be to look at the possible commonalities among them.

"All of this will be part of the investigation going forward," Shea said. "What, if any of these incidents, are there connections or not."