Suffolk County police released a portion of surveillance video Thursday that shows Oheka Castle owner and political power broker Gary Melius being shot — a move police made in the hopes of finding new leads in the unsolved case.
The video’s release and an appeal to the public, announced in Yaphank by Police Commissioner Tim Sini, comes two years after an assailant sneaked up to the driver’s side of Melius’ black Mercedes-Benz and shot him in the head. Melius sustained a head and eye injury.
Sini said police hope releasing the video of the Feb. 24, 2014, shooting could aid them in making an arrest in a case that has frustrated authorities.
“We are not where we want to be, we’re not going to be where we want to be, until I’m standing here announcing an arrest,” Sini said.
He urged anyone with information on the case to call 800-220-TIPS.
The released video shows Melius, at about 12:30 p.m., walking toward his car in the Oheka employee/valet parking lot. He enters the car and, when he starts it, white smoke is seen emanating from the tailpipe.
A dark figure is seen leaving a parked Jeep Cherokee from the driver’s side. The suspect crouches down and moves between parked cars, then heads toward Melius’ car from behind and pauses at the driver’s side window. Police say that is when the shooting occurs but it can’t be seen in the video, which is of poor quality.
Afterward, the suspect appears to fumble with something, and heads back to the Cherokee. Melius can’t be seen and the released video ends there.
Also seen in the video is a black sedan driving in the parking lot and landscapers with leaf blowers in the background. Months after the shooting, investigators announced that they ruled out that black vehicle as an accomplice and interviews with landscapers yielded no clues.
The commissioner said a portion of the video was withheld for “evidentiary purposes.”
“It’s sometimes helpful to know information and to not release that information to the public in order to test the credibility of the witnesses,” Sini said.
Shortly after the shooting, Newsday reported on the contents of the video — both the portion released Thursday by police and more footage from after the shooting.
According to sources, the video shows the shooter tried and failed to fire at least three more times after Melius stumbled out of his car and headed toward the castle’s employee entrance.
Sources said the suspect is seen going back into the Cherokee after the initial shooting, then getting out of the vehicle again and aiming a gun at Melius, as he was moving toward the entrance. The suspect tried to clear a malfunction in the weapon three times, sources said. It is unclear what the suspect or Melius did next.
Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante said Thursday it was undetermined whether the gun malfunctioned.
Early on in the investigation, criminal justice experts said Suffolk police should have released the video because it could have helped in capturing the shooter.
When asked why the department was releasing it two years after the shooting, Sini said: “We think at this point in time, we have to start doing things differently in this investigation in order to move it along. That’s not to second guess any decisions that have been made up to date, it’s just that, listen, we don’t have someone in handcuffs. That’s not acceptable.”
Sini said he wants police to partner with several federal law enforcement departments to help tackle other Suffolk crime. The FBI is already assisting in the investigation into the killings that resulted in the discovery of human remains in 2010-11 in the Gilgo Beach area.
“They have expertise in violent crime. So bringing on another law enforcement agency to take a fresh look at this with the particular expertise that’s necessary is key,” he said.