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Police: Robbery Eyed As Motive In Killing Of L&B Spumoni Gardens Co-Owner

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A manhunt is underway for a gunman after the co-owner of an iconic Brooklyn restaurant was shot to death outside his home in Dyker Heights.

Family members of 61-year-old Louis Barbati were seen washing down the bloody crime scene at the home on 12th Avenue Friday, CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported. Three holes in the fence can be seen where the bullets pierced through.

Police believe that Barbati was targeted and have been zeroing in on a motive.

Around 7 p.m. Thursday, police said the gunman ambushed Barbati outside his home, firing off shot after shot at close range. Barbati had just left the pizzeria at the time of the incident, and was carrying a bag holding $10,000 in cash and a loaf of bread, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported.

"We believe someone was there waiting for him, at which time he approached him at the rear of the home," said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. "Someone knew he had that money. He did not carry that large sums often."

Police believe he parked his white SUV in front of his own garage, walked a few steps up the sidewalk, and through the gate where he was shot dead.

Barbati's wife and two sons were just feet away inside their house as he was struck five times, police said, dying in his own backyard. 

"A lot of people thought it was fireworks," neighbor Mario Insingia said. "The wife was screaming."

Neighbors said the shooter, believed to be wearing a dark-colored hoodie, opened fire as young kids were riding their bikes on the street.

"They were waiting for him," said neighbor Joe Scanio. "They knew what they wanted."

"To see all the police cars and chaos from the murder scene is shocking," said neighbor Bruce Christiensen.

"I've been living over here, in September, for 31 years and never anything like this," another neighbor said. "It's a shame."

Investigators were still collecting evidence from the crime scene late into the afternoon. CBS2 has learned that surveillance video shows a white sedan which police believe the gunman used as a getaway car.

Bullet fragments were found at the scene, but no shell casings.

A woman named Anna said she is a close friend who has known the family for decades.

"He was always a help, came by and there for us whenever we needed anything," she said. "Just a great guy. Good family man."

Barbati was a fourth generation co-owner of his family's restaurant, the popular L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst, known for their famous Sicilian pies.

It was founded by Ludovico Barbati in 1939, according to the restaurant's website, and has been featured on several food shows.

It's on the must-visit list for every pizza lover.

"They have tour buses that come here! This is Brooklyn! L&B is Brooklyn," Celeste Pentano told CBS2's Tony Aiello.

The restaurant was open for business just hours after Barbati was gunned down.

"Very friendly, outgoing, very vivacious, busy, running around all the time," David Ball said.

Barbati's loved ones told CBS2 off camera that they are in a state of shock. Meanwhile, friends are calling his killer brazen and callous.

"To take someone like that who has a family, regardless of what he was involved in, it didn't have to be like this," Anna said.

"Nobody really knows anything," another neighbor said. "Nice family, they have a nice business."

Police said this was not random and said Barbati was the intended target, Burrell reported. But a longtime customer of the eatery named Michael said he can't imagine it was a hit.

"I don't think it had anything to do with anything other than just a random predator type situation," he told 1010 WINS' Samantha Liebman. "There is no indication this guy was anything other than a nice person."

The restaurant was once mentioned in a mob extortion case over an allegedly stolen family recipe for sauce, WCBS 880's Sean Adams reported.

However, no motive has been named in the shooting and police are still investigating.

NYPD Deputy Chief Vincent DiDonato said witnesses reported seeing a white man in his 30s and wearing a hoodie running westbound on 76th Street toward 11th Avenue.

On the side of the house, there appears to be a security camera, Adams reported.

The NYPD says the suspect was last seen wearing a dark hoodie and gray pants. Police are canvassing the neighborhood looking for surveillance video in hopes of catching the suspect.

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