this day in crime history: may 26, 1977

On this date in 1977, police in New York City arrested George “The Human Fly” Willig on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center. His crime? He climbed the South Tower from the outside. He accomplished this feat, which took him 3 1/2 hours, using clamps he had fashioned to fit into the channel that ran the entire height of the tower for window-washing equipment.

The City, sensing they had a new folk hero on their hands, decided against a hefty fine for Willig. Instead, he was fined $1.10 — one cent for every floor floor of the tower.

Further reading:

New York Press“WTC Climber George Willig Would Do It All Again”

GothamistGeorge Willig’s 1977 WTC Climb

Wikipedia – George Willig

this day in crime history: may 13, 1977

On this date in 1977, mob boss Michael “Mickey” Spillane (not to be confused with the guy who created fictional P.I. Mike Hammer) had a run of very bad luck on Friday the 13th; he was shot and killed outside his apartment in Queens, NY. Spillane, who headed the Westies gang, had moved to Queens from Hell’s Kitchen out of fear for his safety. The previous year, his three top lieutenants had been taken out on orders from Genovese crime family boss Fat Tony Salerno. Salerno coveted control of construction contracts for the Jacob Javits Civic Center, which was being built in Spillane’s territory. Spillane’s killing was rumored to have been carried out by Gambino crime family associates Roy DeMeo and Danny Grillo. After Spillane’s demise, mobster Jimmy Coonan took over as head of the Westies. Coonan had previously challenged Spillane for control of the group. After he took control, Coonan formed an alliance with the Gambino family, in a deal brokered by the newly-“made” Roy DeMeo. Coincidence? Um… probably not.

Further reading:

The Westies, by T.J. English

The Serial Killer Calender – Roy DeMeo

Wikipedia – Mickey Spillane (gangster)

this day in crime history: september 4, 1977

SF Imperial Palace

On this date in 1977, a feud between two of San Francisco’s  Chinese street gangs led to a slaughter at the Golden Dragon restaurant. The Joe Boys were angry over the recent death of one of their members in a gunfight with the rival Wah Ching gang. Acting on a tip that a senior Wah Ching member would be at the Golden Dragon, a group of Joe Boys descended on the restaurant armed with shotguns and semi-automatic weapons. Upon entering the restaurant, they fired indiscriminately into the crowd. Five innocent bystanders were killed and eleven wounded. The target of the hit, Michael “Hot Dog” Louie, escaped unscathed.

Police rounded up five members of the Joe Boys. They were tried and convicted in connection with the murder. A  retaliation by the Wah Ching followed the massacre, which was then followed by the formation of the San Francisco Police Department’s  Asian Gang Task Force. The Golden Dragon went out of business in 2006. It’s location is now the home of the Imperial Palace restaurant.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Golden Dragon massacre

Found SF – The Golden Dragon Restaurant Massacre

Mister SF – Golden Dragon Massacre

this day in crime history: june 10, 1977

On this date in 1977, James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King, escaped from the maximum security Brushy Mountain State Prison in Tennessee.

The escape happened after dinner. A disturbance began in the recreation yard of the prison. As the corrections staff was distracted, Ray and six other inmates scaled the wall on the opposite side of the yard using a makeshift ladder.

One of the inmates, who had injured himself in the escape, was captured just outside the prison wall. The remainder were captured over the course of the next two days. Ray was tracked down by bloodhounds. He was found hiding in a pile of leaves five miles from the prison.

James Earl Ray died in prison in 1998 at the age of seventy. Brushy Mountain State Prison was closed in 2009.

Further reading:

TimeASSASSINS: Capture in the Cumberlands

Wikipedia – James Earl Ray

this day in crime history: may 13, 1977

On this date in 1977, mob boss Michael “Mickey” Spillane (not to be confused with the guy who created fictional P.I. Mike Hammer) had a run of very bad luck on Friday the 13th; he was shot and killed outside his apartment in Queens, NY. Spillane, who headed the Westies gang, had moved to Queens from Hell’s Kitchen out of fear for his safety. The previous year, his three top lieutenants had been taken out on orders from Genovese crime family boss Fat Tony Salerno. Salerno coveted control of construction contracts for the Jacob Javits Civic Center, which was being built in Spillane’s territory. Spillane’s killing was rumored to have been carried out by Gambino crime family associates Roy DeMeo and Danny Grillo. After Spillane’s demise, mobster Jimmy Coonan took over as head of the Westies. Coonan had previously challenged Spillane for control of the group. After he took control, Coonan formed an alliance with the Gambino family, in a deal brokered by the newly-“made” Roy DeMeo. Coincidence? Um… probably not.

Further reading:

The Westies, by T.J. English

The Serial Killer Calender – Roy DeMeo

Wikipedia – Mickey Spillane (gangster)

this day in crime history: september 4, 1977

On this date in 1977, a feud between two of San Francisco’s  Chinese street gangs led to a slaughter at the Golden Dragon restaurant. The Joe Boys were angry over the recent death of one of their members in a gunfight with the rival Wah Ching gang. Acting on a tip that a senior Wah Ching member would be at the Golden Dragon, a group of Joe Boys descended on the restaurant armed with shotguns and semi-automatic weapons. Upon entering the restaurant, they fired indiscriminately into the crowd. Five innocent bystanders were killed and eleven wounded. The target of the hit, Michael “Hot Dog” Louie, escaped unscathed.

Police rounded up five members of the Joe Boys. They were tried and convicted in connection with the murder. A  retaliation by the Wah Ching followed the massacre, which was then followed by the formation of the San Francisco Police Department’s  Asian Gang Task Force. The Golden Dragon went out of business in 2006. It’s location is now the home of the Imperial Palace restaurant.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Golden Dragon massacre

Found SF – The Golden Dragon Restaurant Massacre

Mister SF – Golden Dragon Massacre

this day in crime history: june 10, 1977

On this date in 1977, James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King, escaped from the maximum security Brushy Mountain State Prison in Tennessee.

The escape happened after dinner. A disturbance began in the recreation yard of the prison. As the corrections staff was distracted, Ray and six other inmates scaled the wall on the opposite side of the yard using a makeshift ladder.

One of the inmates, who had injured himself in the escape, was captured just outside the prison wall. The remainder were captured over the course of the next two days. Ray was tracked down by bloodhounds. He was found hiding in a pile of leaves five miles from the prison.

James Earl Ray died in prison in 1998 at the age of seventy. Brushy Mountain State Prison was closed in 2009.

Further reading:

truTV – James Earl Ray: The Man Who Killed Dr. Martin Luther King

TimeASSASSINS: Capture in the Cumberlands

Wikipedia – James Earl Ray