A New York City mobster may have been lured to his death by a gunman who deliberately backed into the gangster’s SUV with a pickup truck, police said Thursday.
Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, 53, emerged from the safety of his Staten Island home to see what was going on and was confronted by a man who fatally shot him six times, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said.
“It appears with what we know at this point in time that that was part of the plan,” Shea said. “His car is involved in an accident with an individual who winds up shooting him.”
Shea said the fatal shooting of Cali was caught on security camera but it’s too soon to tell if the Gambino gangster was the victim of a mob hit.
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“Needless to say, with the potential organized crime angle to this story, it gets the utmost importance to the NYPD and detective bureau,” Shea said. “I think it’s a little preliminary with motive.”
That said, Cali’s past is a “focal point of the investigation,” he said.
“Certainly, we're exploring what his prior life or current life has connections to the incident last night,” he said. “It also could have nothing to do with it. We're at a very preliminary stage. We are ruling nothing out at this part.”
Cali was an underboss in the Gambino crime family, two senior law enforcement sources told NBC News. He was killed around 9 p.m. Wednesday after his parked Cadillac SUV was struck.
“He exits his house,” Shea said of Cali. “There is a conversation with an individual in front of that residence. The individual pulls a weapon and shots were fired.”
Cali was struck by six of the dozen shots fired with a 9 millimeter handgun and tried to escape the killer by crawling under a vehicle, leading to erroneous reports that he had been run over, Shea said.
“Somebody thought he was run over, but he was probably trying to elude gunfire by getting under a car,” he said, referring to a panicked 911 call that was made by somebody inside the Cali house.
Twelve bullet casings have been found and police are looking for a blue or silver pickup truck that was seen on camera racing away from the scene — as well as the suspected shooter, Shea said.
Cali’s name has appeared in federal court filings as the underboss of the Gambino organization, the Associated Press reported.
Born in Sicily, Cali's wife is the niece of Gambino capo John Gambino, the New York Daily News reported. His brother Joseph and brother-in-law Peter Inzerillo are reputed Gambino soldiers.
The Gambino family was headed for many years by John Gotti, aka the "Dapper Don," who died in prison in 2002. Gotti's brother, Gene, was released from prison six months ago after serving 29 years for dealing heroin.
Jonathan Dienst is a reporter for WNBC-TV in New York, leading its investigative reporting team and covering justice and law enforcement issues.
Corky Siemaszko is a senior writer for NBC News Digital.