Updated July 13, 2016 6:50 PM
By Anthony M. DeStefano firstname.lastname@example.org
Two weeks after the fatal shooting of the co-owner of L & B Spumoni Gardens, an iconic Brooklyn pizzeria, police still suspect robbery as the motive and have discounted any mob connection, according to a law enforcement official.
Detectives have identified a person of interest whose image was found on video surveillance cameras near the crime scene on 12th Avenue in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn outside the home of popular restaurateur Louis Barbati, said the official, who didn’t want to be named.
“Based on the release of the photo, we have some leads,” said the official, who added that detectives have a make and model of the person of interest’s car but have not yet located the specific vehicle.
The 61-year-old Barbati was gunned down about 7 p.m. as he returned home with more than $10,000 in cash in his pocket. While the cash wasn’t taken, investigators think the robbery attempt was botched. Barbati had left his famous eatery on 86th Street in Gravesend about 6:30 p.m.
Video images released by the NYPD show a male who paced for two hours near Barbati’s home before the shooting and was constantly on his cellphone, the official said. One avenue of the investigation is to check any cellphone calls linked to the person in the time before the shooting, the official explained.
Barbati’s restaurant came up as the back drop for a recent mob extortion trial involving reputed Bonanno and Colombo crime family associates. Federal prosecutors said the source of the dispute was a claim that the secret sauce recipe used at L&B Spumoni had been stolen and used in a new Staten Island pizzeria.
In 2012, reputed Colombo crime family associate Francis Guerra went on trial after being indicted on charges he tried to extort the Staten Island pizzeria owner who he thought had stolen the recipe used by L & B Spumoni. However, a Brooklyn federal jury acquitted Guerra of the extortion charge, as well as allegations he had been involved in some mob killings. Defense attorney Gerald McMahon, who defended Guerra, said Barbati didn’t testify at the trial.
The law enforcement official said detectives have received tips that Barbati possibly owed money to organized crime figures but that information was discounted. However, detectives are still digging into Barbati’s business affairs and are keeping an open mind, said the official.