Gambino crime boss Francesco “Frank” Cali was seen on surveillance cameras actually shaking the hand of the man who then shot him to death in front of his home Wednesday night on Staten Island, according to a law enforcement source.
Cali, 53, had exited his home on Hilltop Terrace in the expensive Todt Hill section a little after 9 p.m. after a man in a vehicle was seen twice backing into Cali’s car parked in front of the house, said the source, who didn’t want to be identified.
The car accident appears to have been a setup to draw Cali out of his home where he was seen talking to the man from the vehicle, possibly a pickup truck, police have said. During the curbside conversation, which NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said on Thursday lasted about a minute, Cali and his assailant, believed to be 25-30 years old, were seen shaking hands, said the source.
As Cali went to pick up a license plate that had apparently been jarred loose from his white passenger car by the impact, he was shot six times by the assailant, said investigators. Cali’s wife and other family members were in the house at the time, police said.
Police still have not reported a possible motive for the slaying of Cali, considered by law enforcement officials to have been part of a small group of Sicilian gangsters effectively running the Gambino family. Cali’s slaying set off a round of speculation in the media and some in law enforcement that the killing might have been sparked by problems within the crime family. The assassination was the first of a mob leader since the December 1985 killing of Gambino boss Paul Castellano.
But at a news conference Thursday, Shea said that the killing could have been sparked by something in Cali’s private or business life and not because of any organized crime activity.
“It would be erring on our part to make any judgement,” Shea said.
Some reports alleged that Cali might have been involved in drug trafficking but federal officials had no history on him being involved in narcotics trafficking, said another law enforcement source.
As part of the investigation, NYPD detectives have been examining video surveillance camera recordings from the area, a job made more complex because the cameras in that part of Staten Island weren’t connected to any network, said the source. Shea also said Thursday that license plate reader information was also being examined.