Frank Cali, Reputed Head Of Gambino Crime Family, Gunned Down On Staten Island

March 14, 2019 - 8:14 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- It's been decades since the head of a crime family was the victim of a mob hit in New York City.

That changed Wednesday night on Staten Island, when Francesco "Franky Boy'' Cali, the de facto godfather of the Gambinos, was shot and killed outside his home.

Cali, 53, was found with multiple gunshot wounds to his body at his home in the borough's Todt Hill section just after 9 p.m. His wife and children were inside the home at the time of the shooting. 

"It sounded like fireworks," said one neighbor, who heard the shooting.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea says Cali emerged from his home after the suspect backed his pickup truck into Cali's Cadillac SUV.  Video shows the suspect pulling a 9 mm handgun and opening fire on Cali about a minute after they started talking.

RELATED: Could Frank Cali’s Murder Have A Gotti Connection?

"Whether it was an altercation or a conversation that remains to be seen, but he has a conversation with an individual in front of that residence and that individual at some point in time, it's only about a minute into it, pulls out a firearm and shots are fired," Shea said.

The gunman fired 12 shots. Police said six of them hit Cali, who was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Shea says it’s possible the gunman intentionally crashed into Cali's car to lure him outside.

"I think it's a little preliminary to be making judgments on motive but certainly Mr. Cali's prior dealings, he has been arrested prior by the feds are a focal point at this point of the investigation, but nothing is being ruled out," Shea said.

The chief left open the possibility Cali’s murder was not a mob hit.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn had referred to Cali in court filings in recent years as the underboss of the Gambino organization, related through marriage to the Inzerillo clan in the Sicilian Mafia.

Multiple press accounts since 2015 said Cali had ascended to the top spot in the gang, although he never faced a criminal charge saying so.

His only mob-related criminal conviction came a decade ago, when Cali pleaded guilty in an extortion conspiracy involving a failed attempt to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island. He was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison and was released in 2009.

Cali was reportedly considered an old school-style boss who kept a low profile.

Neighbors are mystified.

"I had no idea, we've been living here a long time and I had no clue. It's a quiet neighborhood and everyone keeps to themselves," one man said.

The last crime family boss to be shot in New York City was Paul Castellano. The Gambino crime boss was assassinated outside Manhattan's Sparks Steakhouse in a 1985 hit orchestrated by an ambitious capo -- John Gotti, Adams reported.

The Gambino Family was once among the most powerful criminal organizations in the U.S., but federal prosecutions in the 1980s and 1990s sent its top leaders to prison and diminished its reach.

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)