Police are still searching for a suspect in the mysterious shooting death of a man near the corporate headquarters of a discount grocery retailer in Maspeth late last week.
Cops from the 104th Precinct responded to reports of a shooting near the Western Beef supermarket, located at 47 05 Metropolitan Ave. in Maspeth, Friday morning after callers reported seeing an employee enter the premises with a wound to the groin.
According to police reports and witnesses, a 20 year old man, who was later identified as Christopher James of Brooklyn, stumbled into the supermarket’s sprawling parking lot around 9:30 a.m., bleeding and claiming he had been shot by an unidentified assailant. The victim then walked several hundred yards past the supermarket to a smaller building housing the retailer’s corporate offices at the northern end of the complex, where a fellow employee quickly called police.
After being rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center, James was listed in stable condition and expected to survive. But two days later, police reported that he had actually been pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital and the case was reclassified as a homicide.
An NYPD spokeswoman declined to explain the discrepancy, but suggested that the shooting likely sprang from a verbal altercation involving the shooter and the victim on a nearby sidestreet in the secluded warehouse district near Brooklyn. Police would not comment further this week, saying only that the investigation is ongoing.
Western Beef officials were also tight lipped about the incident. “We’re still trying to figure out what happened, but nobody really knows,” said a manager who first identified himself as Harry, then as Dominique. “For now, no comment.”
As of press time, Western Beef’s corporate office had not returned numerous follow up calls. The Maspeth based retailer runs 21 supermarkets catering to low income residents throughout the city, as well as a food wholesaling operation.
Western Beef was founded in the 1980s by Peter Castellana, the reputed former soldier of the Gambino crime family who has since foresworn all connections to organized crime. His cousin is the late Paul Castellano, who was murdered in midtown Manhattan by a group of assassins sent by John Gotti in December 1985.
Castellana’s devoutly Catholic son, Peter Jr., took over the supermarket chain in the 1990s and subsequently expelled his father from the business after the senior Castellana was jailed for bankruptcy fraud. Despite past suspicions from authorities, the younger Castellana and his three brothers have repeatedly claimed they run the company cleanly and legally and have divested themselves of any mob connections their father may have had.