04
May
15

this day in crime history: may 4, 1932

On this date in 1932, “Scarface” Al Capone boarded a train for Atlanta to start serving his prison sentence for tax evasion. Big Al learned the hard way that there are some lines you shouldn’t cross. Lie, cheat, steal, bribe, bootleg, murder–knock yourself out, dude. But you’d damn well better PAY YOUR TAXES!

Capone was released from prison in November 1939 after 7 1/2 years behind bars. The repeal of Prohibition put a hurting on his business. Syphilis put a hurting on his brain. He died of cardiac arrest in 1947.

Lessons learned from Big Al:

1. Pay your taxes
2. Diversify your business
3. Wear a Jimmy hat

Further reading:

My Al Capone Museum – Al Capone’s tax trial and downfall

Al Capone at Chicago Historical Society

Al Capone on Wikipedia

02
May
15

this day in crime history: may 2, 1946

On this day in 1946, an aborted escape attempt led to what became known as the Battle of Alcatraz. The incident began when convicted bank robber Bernard Coy attacked guard William Miller as he frisked inmate Marvin Hubbard in the prison’s C Block. Coy and Hubbard were able to overpower Miller. They then released inmates Joseph Cretzer and Clarence Carnes from their cells.

Coy climbed up to the block’s elevated gun gallery, which was unattended at the moment. He had previously noted a flaw in the bars protecting the gallery which allowed him to use a makeshift tool to widen the bars. Once he had done that, he managed to squeeze through the bars and into the gun gallery. When guard Bert Bunch returned to the gun gallery, Coy overpowered him and relieved him of his keys, rifle and pistol. He also availed himself of other items in the gun gallery, including clubs and gas grenades.

Coy lowered the keys and weapons to his accomplices, keeping the rifle for himself. He then moved to D Block where he forced a guard, at gunpoint, to open the door to the cell block. About a dozen inmates left D Block, which was used as a disciplinary block. Most returned to their cells. Two of the inmates, Sam Shockley and Miran Thompson, joined the would-be escapees.

The inmates’ plan was to get out of the prison, make their way to the dock using hostages as human shields, then use the prison launch to get to the mainland. The next hurdle they faced in their plan was unlocking the door to the outside. After multiple unsuccessful attempts with the wrong keys, they finally found the right one. Unfortunately for them, the lock was damaged from having the wrong keys shoved in it. They were unable to open the door.

While the inmates were fighting their losing battle with the lock, several other guards wandered onto C Block, unaware that inmates had seized control of that part of the prison. They were taken hostage and put in cells. The number of hostages eventually reached nine guards, who occupied two cells.

Frustrated by the uncooperative lock, Cretzer opened fire on the hostage guards, wounding five. One, William Miller, later died from his wounds. Coy used the rifle to fire on guards in the prison towers. Thompson, Shockley, and Carnes elected to return to their cells. Coy, Hubbard, and Cretzer decided to stay and fight.

An assault by guards was met with gunfire. Officer Harold Stites was killed and four guards were wounded. Warden James Johnston called for help from the military. Two platoons of Marines were sent to help with the assault on C Block and to assist in guarding the other inmates.

That evening, a contingent of guards engaged in a rescue operation to free the hostages while armed guards exchanged gunfire with the three inmates. Once the hostages had been rescued, guards and Marines subjected C Block to a barrage of fire using, machine guns, grenades, and mortars.

Early the next afternoon, the inmates telephoned the warden in an attempt to negotiate a deal. There was no deal to be had, short of unconditional surrender, which was unacceptable to Coy and his accomplices.

The barrages continued through into night. The next morning, armed guards entered the cell house to find Coy, Hubbard, and Cretzer dead.

Inmates Thompson, Shockley, and Carnes were all convicted for their roles in the escape attempt and the death of two guards.  Thompson and Shockley were sentenced to death. Carnes received a life sentence, but was released in 1973.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Battle of Alcatraz

Alcatraz History – Battle of Alcatraz

01
May
15

friday movie quote

ForbiddenPlanet

“Another one of them new worlds. No beer, no women, no pool parlors, nothin’. Nothin’ to do but throw rocks at tin cans, and we gotta bring our own tin cans.”

-Cookie (Earl Holliman), Forbidden Planet (1956)

30
Apr
15

this day in crime history: april 30, 1927

On this date in 1927, The Federal Industrial Institution for Women opened in Alderson, WV. It was the first federal women’s prison in the United States. The prison, which is now known as Federal Prison Camp, Alderson — and unofficially as “Camp Cupcake” — is still functioning as a minimum security prison for women. Notable former residents include Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally, Billie Holiday, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sara Jane Moore, and Martha Stewart. And speaking of women in prison, an entire movie genre was inspired by the concept. Unrealistic, to be sure. But artistically significant, nonetheless.

28
Apr
15

the eastern state penitentiary tunnel escape – 70th anniversary

In keeping with my recent policy of being asleep at the wheel on this blog, I managed to miss the 70th anniversary of the 1945 tunnel escape from Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. For the record, the breakout happened on April 3, 1945. You’d think I’d have remembered to do a This Day in Crime History post about it, especially since I wrote and published a true crime short story about the escape.

UTW-Blog

Here’s the book description from Amazon:

In 1945, twelve inmates, including notorious bank robber Willie Sutton and mob trigger-man Frederick “The Angel” Tenuto, escaped from Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia through a one hundred foot tunnel. Some would be captured quickly. Others would not go down so easily.

Under the Wall is a true crime short story. Approximate length: 5,000 words (about 20 printed pages)

If you’re interested in learning the whole story, you can buy Under the Wall for the low, low price of 99 cents. It’s available at the following ebook retailers:

Amazon

Apple

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

25
Apr
15

this day in crime history: april 25, 1965

SwedishMauser

On this day in 1965, sixteen year old Michael Andrew Clark took up a position overlooking Highway 101 near Orcutt, CA and began shooting at cars as they passed. The night before the shooting spree, Clark stole his parents car and left his home in Long Beach, CA. He brought his father’s pistol and Swedish Mauser rifle (similar to the one pictured above) with him.

During the shooting spree, two people were killed at the scene. Twelve more were injured. One of the injured victims, five year old Kevin Reida, later died from his wound.

Police were called to the scene. As deputies and Highway Patrol officers closed in, Clark did what most of these twisted cowards do: he killed himself.

Further reading:

Google News archive – Eugene Register-Guard, April 26, 1965: Young Sniper on California Hill Kills Two Motorists Injures Twelve

Wikipedia – 1965 Highway 101 sniper attack

Wikipedia – Swedish Mauser

IMDb – Targets (a 1968 movie that was loosely inspired by this incident)

24
Apr
15

friday movie quote

DudleySmith

“I admire you as a policeman – particularly your adherence to violence as a necessary adjunct to the job.”

-Dudley Smith (James Cromwell), L.A. Confidential (1997)




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