Gary Melius was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Long Island, N.Y. “castle” he calls home on Monday when a gunman came up and shot at him three times — striking him once on the side of the head.
On Tuesday, Melius was in stable condition at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., his room guarded by police. His assailant was still at large, his identity and motive a mystery to both Melius and the police working the case.
“We’re going to investigate every aspect of his personal, professional life to determine who did this to him,” Suffolk County Police Department Det. Sgt. John O’Sullivan told The Wall Street Journal. “We spent some time interviewing Mr. Melius, going over some background; his business relationships, his personal relationships.”
Melius has a lot of relationships. “I collect people,” he told the Journal in an interview this month, before the shooting. The 69-year-old owns Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y., which functions as both a high-end hotel and an event space. In 2010, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Huma Abedin were married at the castle, according to the Journal. Former President Bill Clinton officiated.
Melius has also been a major political donor and fundraiser. Campaign finance records compiled by The Center for Responsive Politics show that Melius has given about $150,000 to politicians in both parties over the past 20 years. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Rep. Pete King (R-NY), and Rep. Allen West (R-FL) have all received campaign checks with Melius’ signature on them. He counts former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) as a personal friend.
“My good friend Gary Melius remains stable, but is in good spirits, is resting comfortably and is recovering,” D’Amato tweeted Tuesday.
A self-described “guy from the streets,” Melius bought Oheka Castle in 1984. The estate, built in 1919 by the financier Otto Kahn, had been abandoned for several years, following the bankruptcy of a military academy that took over the building in 1948. Melius restored the estate, but has had financial problems along the way. The Journal reported in 2012 that Melius was unable to refinance the castle’s $27.9 million mortgage, and had entered negotiations with the loan servicer. The New York Daily News reported Tuesday that Melius had once been nearly $6 million in debt, including a $100,00 tab at a Donald Trump-owned casino.
Monday’s attack was captured, at least in part, by a surveillance camera at the castle, officials told the Journal. The video shows two men waiting in a vehicle for more than two hours before the attack, and a masked gunman later firing at the driver’s side window of Melius’ Mercedes. At least one of the shots apparently misfired.
“If this near-death experience has done anything, it is a reminder to live each day, celebrate life and embrace your family,” Melius said in a statement obtained by Newsday. “I happen to be blessed with a very, very large extended family who rallied to my side during the past 24 hours.”