Francesco "Frankie Boy" Cali, who purportedly ran the family once led by John Gotti, was 53. Authorities say he was shot anywhere from six to 10 times in the torso around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on Hilltop Terrace near 4 Corners Road in the Todt Hill section.
His wife and child were in the home at the time, which sources say is a highly unusual circumstance in the lore of organized crime -- which, in its heyday, followed certain rules that kept targets from getting whacked in front of their families.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said Cali was home with his family when he came outside following a car accident in front of the house. Investigators are working to determine whether that accident was staged in order to lure Cali out of the house. They are also working to determine whether Cali received a phone call or text message to get him outside.
Watch the full NYPD press conference:
Cali reportedly had a brief conversation with someone who had hit his Cadillac SUV. About a minute into the conversation, police say that individual pulled a gun and opened fire.
At some point, Cali ducked behind his Cadillac to avoid additional gunfire, and the location of his body had initially led authorities to look into whether he was also run over. Detectives have since determined he was struck by the truck.
He was taken to Richmond University Hospital, where he later died.
BREAKING: Francesco Cali, the 53 year-old reputed boss of the Gambino crime family, is gunned down outside his Staten Island home. The highest-ranking organized crime figure to be murdered in New York City in recent memory.— N. J. Burkett (@njburkett7) March 14, 2019
On Thursday, police were still searching for the gun used in the murder and a blue pickup truck believed to be the vehicle involved.
Eyewitness News obtained Cali's mugshot from 2008. Back then, he served 16 months for extortion, and in 2015, it is believed he took the reins of the notorious Gambino crime family.
"I'm terrified, I never thought that something like that would happen," neighbor Prashant Ranyal said. "My mind is overworking thinking about it. It's bizarre. This is such a lovely neighborhood, nice neighborhood."
There were no arrests and no immediate word of any suspects.
Shea said detectives are piecing together surveillance video taken from the Cali home with other video images taken from nearby homes. The video reportedly captured the shooting, with 12 shots being fired.
Mob experts have been wary about possible conflicts erupting in the crime family, particularly after Gotti's brother Gene, a reputed captain, recently was released from prison. But they say all options remain on the table.
They say the type of hit -- at his home, with no real attempt to hide what happened -- suggests that it was a message killing. The question for detectives is what type of message was being sent.
In addition to human sources, police are now collecting cell and digital records to see if they can learn anything from them. They also need to find out if there's been any suggestion among their sources in recent weeks that a major hit was in the offing.
This is the first time a reputed mob boss has been killed in New York City in more than 30 years.
The last Mafia boss to be shot to death in New York City was Gambino don Paul Castellano, assassinated outside a Manhattan steakhouse in 1985 at the direction of Gotti, who then took over.
Cali kept a much lower profile than Gotti.
With his expensive double-breasted suits and overcoats and silvery swept-back hair, Gotti became known as the Dapper Don, his smiling face all over the tabloids. As prosecutors tried and failed to bring him down, he came to be called the Teflon Don.
In 1992, Gotti was convicted in Castellano's murder and a multitude of other crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison and died of cancer in 2002.
Cali's only mob-related criminal conviction came a decade ago, when he pleaded guilty in an extortion scheme involving a failed attempt to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island. He was sentenced to 16 months behind bars and was released in 2009.
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