NEW YORK – New York police arrested a 24-year-old man Saturday suspected of killing Gambino crime family leader Frank Cali, potentially over a love interest.
Police arrested Anthony A. Comello, who lives with his parents, at a home in Brick Township, New Jersey, after identifying him from surveillance camera footage that showed him pulling up to Cali’s home in a pickup truck, conversing with Cali at his front door, then returning to his car and firing a gun at Cali 12 times.
Investigators said the motive for the killing remains unclear, but that it is possible Comello may have shot Cali, 53, in anger after Cali told him to stay away from a female relative in whom Comello was romantically interested.
“Let me reiterate: This is far from over. We are at the beginning stages of this investigation,” Dermot F. Shea, New York City Police Department chief of detectives, said at a Saturday news conference, according to The New York Times.
Investigators initially thought the killing on March 13 to be a Mafia-style hit on Cali, but surveillance footage of the shooting showed it was far less sophisticated and does not appear to be the beginning of a conflict within or between mafia families. The investigation is ongoing.
“Was he acting alone? Was he acting for other people? What was the motive? I simply, standing here in front of you, do not have all the answers,” Shea added.
Police believe Comello drove a pickup truck to Cali’s home then backed it into Cali’s Cadillac Escalade and thereby knocked off its license plate. Comello then walked up to the front door of Cali’s home and rang the doorbell, allowing a surveillance camera to capture an image of his face. Cali answered and the two talked for approximately a minute — a conversation the surveillance camera also recorded. Cali then took the license plate, walked over to his car and placed it in the back.
That’s when the shooter drew a 9-millimeter pistol and fired at the crime family leader, striking him 10 times. Detectives matched Comello’s fingerprints to those found on the car license plate that the shooter handed to Cali, though they have not yet located the weapon.
Nieghbors of Comello’s parents in the Eltingville area of Staten Island in New York said that news of Comello’s suspected involvement in the killing shocked them.
“I would never imagine he could have done this. I was shocked,” neighbor Victor Ujeck told The NYT.
Didar Janid, who knew Comello for approximately eight years and works at a deli near Comello’s parents’ home, also said Comello didn’t appear to be a threat.
“He was a little bit aggressive, a little loud,” Janid said, adding: “I didn’t see nothing abnormal when I saw him. I can’t think even that he could be doing this.”
Comello did, however, exhibit behavior at a federal courthouse in recent years that prompted the United States Marshals Service to detain him and to ask NYPD’s Intelligence Division to see if Comello had any record of making threats of terrorism, according to two law enforcement officials. Comello had no criminal history at the time.
Comello is expected to return to Staten Island to be arraigned on murder charges.Follow Joshua on Twitter