NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An unlicensed livery cab driver was in critical condition after being shot in the head early Friday morning in Queens.
As CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported, police late Friday were still looking for clues at the scene and talking to his passengers — who around 5 a.m. had just left a rowdy club on 34th Street and 36th Avenue in Astoria.
Police sources said the 37-year-old driver took four men to the club and was sitting outside when the group got into a quarrel with someone and gunfire erupted, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
Neighbor Randolph Gunzer captured the wild scene of the club on video. The Fire Department was clearing out the club and angry, drunken patrons were spilling into the street — some fighting.
“These people are morons,” Gunzer is heard saying as he shoots the video. “They don’t care.”
The situation grew worse and worse, witnesses said.
“We have a video, it shows the woman running out of the club and after that, it starts escalating,” a man named Piero, who runs the coffee shop across the street, told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria. “The woman, they start punching other guys, the bouncers.”
“They came out, and I think that’s actually when the shooting happened,” added Gunzer. “They were ground the corner over here. The people were leaving. And that’s kind of when it really when it got serious.”
Investigators said the men got into the cab and someone else shot at the vehicle, hitting driver Roberto Castillo in the head. Police believe the shooter was actually targeting one of Castillo’s four passengers.
Critically injured and bleeding from the head, Castillo tried to drive away but slammed his black SUV into a utility pole three blocks away, CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported.
“He’s in very critical condition right now. Doctors have removed the bullet from his skull,” said Fernando Mateo of the New York State Federation of Cab Drivers. “We’re hoping that he’s going to pull through, but we don’t know at this point.”
Mateo, who is a spokesman for many of the city’s livery drivers, said Castillo made his living as a driver even though he wasn’t technically licensed to do that.
“If he wasn’t, he was doing the wrong thing by driving without a TLC license,” Mateo said. “But if it would have been a licensed TLC driver, he would have been in the same condition that he’s in.”
He said the father of two was picking up passengers at the club – passengers he may have dropped off earlier from the Bronx, where he was dispatched by a local car service.
Police late Friday were talking to one or more of those passengers to try to figure out who was responsible for the shooting. They were also looking at the club’s surveillance video.
Neighbors said it wouldn’t be the first time there has been violence in the area.
“I know of three shootings that happened here and at least two stabbings,” Gunzer said. “And there are always fights in this place — horns blowing, families trying to sleep.”
And the club is smack dab in the middle of a residential area.
“This club has been nothing but a problem since they opened up,” said neighbor Jimmy Houlias.
A spokesman for the club said the shooting happened two blocks away, not right outside the nightclub.
Police worked for much of the day, keeping streets blocked off with crime scene tape and interviewing witnesses.
Police said the passengers who were inside the driver’s car did stay at the scene, but it was unclear how many shooters investigators were looking for.