Notorious Bronx gang leader found fatally shot in car

Tim Fleischer has the latest on the story.
November 16, 2013 9:30:09 PM PST
In East Harlem and in the Bronx, notorious gang leader Michael Meldish ran what former police say was his ruthless drug operation in the 70s and 80s. Now, they think his past caught up with him.

"Michael Meldish was probably the most ruthless of all of them - him, and his brother," said former commander of the NYPD's Gangland Hit Squad, Joe Coffey.

It was on a normally quiet Ellsworth Avenue in the Country Club section of the Bronx where a shooting took place Friday night. A car was parked in a corner spot just before 10:30 when neighbors first heard a single gunshot.

Coffey is not surprised seeing the scene of the apparent execution of 62-year-old Meldish, where he was found sitting in his parked car in the Country Club section of the Bronx.

"We thought the guy was either intoxicated or he was with his leg out, like passed out, almost like he was drunk, had a heart attack or a stroke or something," Forbes said.

Forbes moved closer, and was prepared to used CPR when she suddenly noticed a gunshot.

"I saw the gunshot, you know, small," said Forbes, "I said 'I am leaving this, this is a crime scene now - I'm not pulling out of the car."

Coffey spent years chasing Meldish, who he says controlled the drug trade in the Bronx and Harlem, and ran what was known as the "Purple Gang".

"They were cutthroat murderers, just creeps," said Coffey, "some of the mob people were afraid of them, that's how bad they were."

For decades they tried to build cases against them.

"We had great trouble trying to find witnesses because of the fact they were petrified of these guys," adds Coffey.

In the neighborhood, some people who showed interest in where the shooting took place declined to say whether they were related to the victim. Others did not want to go on camera, and it still rattles Janet Forbes.

"It's scary having it happen pretty much right in front of your house, I'm just glad we didn't run into anybody five minutes earlier," adds Forbes.