New Jersey Man Slain in NYC Poker Robbery
An armed robbery at an underground New York City poker club on Friday night resulted in the death of a well-liked Wayne, New Jersey man when one of the robber's weapons accidentally discharged. Meanwhile, an extensive investigation and manhunt for the robbers and killer continues, though no one is yet in custody.
Frank DeSena, 55, was among roughly 90 players present at the new Straddle underground club in Manhattan's Flatiron district, only a few blocks from the Empire State building. The club had been open for only about two weeks, replacing an earlier Straddle club that had been raided by police in August, when four robbers entered the building at about 11:20 Friday night. The four placed a gun to a downstairs bouncer's head to gain access to the seventh-floor game in the Fifth Avenue building that held a mix of businesses and private apartments.
Once inside, the robbers began stripping the game of its cash, with three of the robbers referring to each other as "One," "Two," and "Three," and watching the players. The fourth robber began beating the game's cashier, seemingly with knowledge of where a larger amount of cash was held, while the others watched the patrons. DeSena, a well-liked player often referred to as "Yankee Frank," was shot when one of the robbers dropped a sawed-off shotgun, then accidentally discharged a handgun while picking up the larger weapon.
DeSena, who had previously worked both for AT&T and as a math teacher at the Hoboken, NJ, Stevens Institute of Technology, was struck in the torso by the bullet, and died about 40 minutes later at Manhattan's St. Vincent's Hospital. He is survived by his 52-year-old wife and 16-year-old daughter.
After the robbery and shooting, the gunmen fled with an as-yet-undetermined amount of cash. Early reports suggested that only a few thousand dollars had been taken, but later news suggests that as much as $100,000 was involved. One report quoted another player as saying that as much as $250,000 could be found at times on the premises.
Police continue interviewing witnesses and sifting evidence, including the examination of security tapes from both the night of the robbery and earlier games at the club. Police believe one or more of the robbers likely played at the club during the two weeks it had been open at its new location, and that inside knowledge of the game's workings is a possibility; the gunmen reportedly fled through a seldom-used back entrance after the shooting.