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NYPD: Staten Island man, 24, arrested in slaying of Gambino crime boss

One high-ranked NYPD official said suspect Anthony Comello made statements to investigators that were "all over the lot" and didn't give any firm sense of a motive.

Dermot Shea, NYPD chief of detectives, speaks about the arrest Saturday. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

A 24-year-old man was arrested Saturday in the killing of Gambino crime boss Francesco “Frank” Cali, who was shot in front of his home Wednesday night, police said.

Anthony Comello of Staten Island is being held at a New Jersey jail and is expected to face murder charges, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said at a news conference.

Law enforcement officials did not reveal a motive for the flagrant assassination — the first of a mob leader since the December 1985 killing of Gambino boss Paul Castellano. Shea said Cali was shot 10 times.

"Was he acting alone?" Shea said. "Was he acting for other people? Are there others involved? What is the motive? Standing here I simply do not have all the answers for you."

 One high-ranked NYPD official said that Comello made statements to investigators that were “all over the lot” and didn’t give any firm sense of a motive. One theory is that he may have been pestering Cali’s niece and was angered when Cali told him to stay away, the official said.

“Write this down: This is not a mob hit,” said one former FBI official when told of the suspect's capture on Saturday.

Even so, a police source said that investigators are still looking into whether the incident is related to Cali’s mob life, as well as his business dealings.

Police are also checking into reports that some months ago Comello walked into a Staten Island courthouse, ranted about government officials, was questioned and let go, said the source.

Police tracked Comello down through interviews, phone and video electronic evidence, Shea said. Comello also received a parking ticket on Staten Island on the day of the shooting, he said. 

"We are the beginning stages of this investigation," Shea said

Comello, a 2012 graduate of Tottenville High School, has no known criminal record.

Cali, 53, came out of his Todt Hill home a little after 9 p.m. after a man in a vehicle was seen twice backing into Cali’s parked car, a source told Newsday after the shooting.

The car accident appears to have been a setup to draw Cali out of the Staten Island house and he was seen talking to the man from the vehicle, possibly a pickup truck, police have said. During the curbside conversation, which Shea said on Thursday lasted about a minute, the two men were seen on surveillance cameras shaking hands, the source said.

As Cali went to pick up a license plate that had apparently been jarred loose from his car, Comello shot him repeatedly, police said. Cali’s wife and other family members were in the house at the time, police said.

Law enforcement officials consider Cali to have been part of a small group of Sicilian gangsters effectively running the Gambino family. His death set off a round of speculation in the media and by some in law enforcement that the killing might have been sparked by problems within the crime family. 

With Robert Brodsky

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