2016-03-09 / Features

Livery Driver Shot In LIC


A livery driver is on life support, after he was shot in the head early Friday outside a Long Island City club. 
Photos Vinny DuPre A livery driver is on life support, after he was shot in the head early Friday outside a Long Island City club. Photos Vinny DuPre A livery driver is clinging to life, on life support, after he was shot in the head early Friday outside a Long Island City club.

Cops said unlicensed livery driver Robert Castillo, 37, dropped off a man and three women at Club Purlieu at 36-04 34th St. in the early morning hours of March 4.

Castillo agreed to wait for the passengers to ferry them home after a celebration inside the club.

The passengers suddenly bolted from the club at about 5 a.m, when a fight broke out inside the club, the source said. The group made it into Castillo’s Ford Explorer, but before he could pull away, an individual ran toward the SUV and opened fire.

A police source said a car might have pulled alongside the SUV on the driver’s side, and someone inside the vehicle might have fired the round that tore through the driver’s window, striking Castillo in the head.

Bleeding heavily from his head, Castillo hit the gas and managed to drive two blocks, until the Explorer slammed into several parked cars and a utility pole on 35th Street and 37th Avenue, a police source said.

Three of the passengers remained in the Explorer, the source said. Video surveillance obtained from a nearby business showed a fourth passenger running from the vehicle moments after the crash. The four passengers were taken to the 114th Precinct for questioning and were later released. No arrests have been made in the shooting.

Castillo, a father of two daughters, ages 8 and 15, was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center where doctors removed a bullet from his skull and placed him on life support. He remains at the hospital in very critical condition.

Sources said it remains unclear if Castillo’s four passengers were involved in the dispute inside the strip club.

A spokesperson for the Taxi & Limousine Commission said Castillo is not a licensed livery driver. Police said Castillo has been driving for a Bronx livery service for about one month. He drove the same four passengers to the Long Island City club on the night of March 4.

Police, community leaders and city officials called on the State Liquor Authority to investigate and take appropriate action regarding a previous armed assault that spilled onto the street outside Purlieu on September 6, 2015.

Cops said four suspects accosted a man in the early morning hours of September 6, as he was leaving a live music performance at Purlieu.

The four suspects followed the victim to his car, parked outside 36-17 34th St. at about 6:10 a.m. on September 6. When the 30- year-old victim attempted to enter the vehicle, one of the men flashed a gun and demanded that the victim hand over his gold chains and watch, police said.

The suspect pointed the gun at the victim’s head and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t comply, then removed two gold necklaces, a watch and a Samsung Note 5 from the victim and punched him in the head before fleeing the scene, police said.

The gunman fired one round from his weapon, grazing the victim’s head as the four suspects ran from the scene, a police source said.

Sources said investigators believe the suspects spotted the victim inside Purlieu and pulled off the attack when he left the club.

Police ramped up enforcement at the club following the incidents, including a series of MARCH (Multiple Agency Response To Critical Hotspots) enforcement crackdowns that bring response teams from the FDNY, city and state agencies to inspect and enforce conditions at troubled locations.

Police officials at the 114th Precinct have continued to closely monitor conditions in and around the club, that is located in a largely residential neighborhood. Purlieu is located less than a half-block from two churches and a public high school, and one block from a public elementary school.

Neighbors said police are highly visible in the area and blame city and state agencies for failing to back up NYPD efforts to shut down the club.

“What else is it going to take to close this place?” a neighbor said. “The cops are always around, always inside the place, but they need help from the city and state to shut it down.”

Captain Peter Fortune, Commanding Officer of the 114th Precinct, said he would renew his calls for the State Liquor Authority to pull Purlieu’s liquor license, and for help from city agencies to close the club.

Police are continuing their investigation into this latest round of violence at Purlieu, and are urging anyone with information on the March 4 incidents to call the CrimeStoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS or click on www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.

The Hotline is offering a reward of up to $2,500 to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects.

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