For months, Sylvester Zottola has been pursued by someone who wanted him dead. On Thursday evening, as night fell outside a McDonald’s on Webster Avenue in the Bronx, it appears that someone caught up with him.
Mr. Zottola, a reputed associate of New York’s Bonanno crime family, was believed to have been waiting in his S.U.V. to pick up his order at the drive-through window when he was shot dead.
In what a law enforcement official described as a mafia-style assassination, Mr. Zottola was shot once in the head and four times in the torso. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His assassin fled in what the police say was a gray vehicle, and remains at large.
It is the bloody conclusion to months’ worth of gangland-style assaults against both Mr. Zottola, 71, and his son, Salvatore, who through the 1990s and early 2000s supplied and serviced Joker Poker machines to mob-controlled gambling hubs, according to court documents.
Less than three months ago, the younger Mr. Zottola, 41, narrowly escaped his own brush with death. Ambushed by a gunman on a quiet neighborhood street in the early hours of July 11, Mr. Zottola was left for dead outside his family’s Throgs Neck compound. He was shot multiple times by an unidentified assailant, but he survived.
Caught on grainy security camera footage, the sloppy hit man sped off in a getaway car.
That, too, was not the first overture against the family this summer. The elder Mr. Zottola was facing charges in Bronx Criminal Court for brandishing an unlicensed gun at an unknown thug who confronted him outside his home in June. The would-be assailant vanished, and Mr. Zottola was charged with criminal possession of a firearm. He was scheduled to appear in court next Tuesday.
There have been no arrests beyond the elder Mr. Zottola in connection with either incident, though investigators said they were looking at whether they were connected, and how the pair’s mafia ties could have put them in someone’s cross hairs.
The investigation into the incidents was passed from the Bronx district attorney’s office to federal investigators earlier this year. Asked about the inquiry Thursday night, the United States Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
A call to Salvatore Zottola’s phone number was unanswered.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Ali Watkins and Emily Palmer