The murder of the Gambino crime family boss had seemed like a classic New York City mob hit of old — until Monday, when the case took an extremely modern twist.
The suspected killer, appearing in court for the first time, flashed his palm to the cameras, revealing a large “Q” written in blue pen, as well as slogans associated with the bizarro far-right pro-Trump conspiracy theory known as “QAnon,” like “Patriots in Charge” and “United We Stand.” He’d also written “MAGA forever” on his hand.
QAnon originated from a post on 4Chan in October 2017. Since then, it’s metastasized into an ambitious theory that posits, broadly, that President Donald Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller are in cahoots, and that the investigation into Russia is actually an investigation to expose prominent Democrats’ involvement in a Satanic, global, child sex trafficking ring.
Police told the New York Post that the suspected killer, 24-year-old Anthony Comello, had been reading about QAnon online and that he attempted to make a citizen’s arrest of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a few months ago.
Comello is accused of gunning down Gambino crime boss Francesco “Frankie Boy” Cali outside his home in Staten Island last week. He was arrested on Saturday at his parents' vacation home on the Jersey Shore.
Initially, law enforcement speculated that the murder of Cali, who was believed to have ties to Sicilian mobsters, was a mafia hit.
"We’re back to the '90s," Rich Frankel, a former FBI special agent in charge of the criminal division in New York, told ABC News. "We haven’t had a hit like this in at least 30 years."
Now, according to the New York Times, law enforcement officials believe that Comello may have had a romantic interest in one of Cali’s relatives, and Cali did not approve.
Comello’s court appearance wasn’t the first time the QAnon conspiracy has slid out of the internet and into the real world.
In June 2018, a Nevada man armed with an AR-15 and a handgun was arrested after he drove an armored vehicle to the Hoover Dam and blocked traffic for 90 minutes while he held up a sign demanding the release of a secret, second Office of Inspector General report into the conduct of the FBI during its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. (The notion that there’s a second report is a popular theory in QAnon world.) He later wrote a letter from jail that was filled with obscure references to QAnon.
Another man that same month occupied an old cement plant in Tuscon, Arizona, believing that it was used as a base for the Democrats’ child sex trafficking ring.
And last December, an outgoing city council member in San Juan Capistrano, California, said "God Bless Q” during her farewell address, and then read a QAnon post aloud.
A recent book about QAnon, which claims Democrats eat children, made it to number two on Amazon’s best-sellers list earlier this month.
Cover image: Anthony Comello appears for his extradition hearing in Toms River, N.J., Monday, March 18, 2019. New York City police say a suspect is in custody in the shooting death of the reputed Gambino crime family boss. Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea says 24-year-old Comello was arrested Saturday, March 16, 2019, in the death of Francesco Cali on Wednesday in front of his Staten Island home. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)