this day in crime history: october 1, 1910

On this date in 1910, a bomb was detonated in an alley next to the Los Angeles Times building in Los Angeles, CA.  The bomb, which was planted by labor union activists who were angry at the paper’s anti-union editorial policies, was set to go off when the building was empty.  A faulty timer resulted in an early detonation.  A faulty placement of the device–right over a gas line–resulted in a fire that ultimately destroyed the entire building, and the building next door.  In all, 21 people were killed.

The police investigation of the bombing quickly hit a dead, leading city officials to hire private investigator William J. Burns to track down the guilty parties.  Burns, who was already investigating other bombings believed to be union-related, incorporated the case into his ongoing investigation.  Based on information from spies that Burns had planted in the unions, as well as eyewitness testimony, Burns identified the guilty parties as brothers J.B. and J.J. McNamara, and Ortie McManigal, who were all labor union officials.  In April 1911, McManigal and J.B. McNamara were arrested in a hotel in Detroit.  They were found in possession of suitcases that contained blasting caps, dynamite, and alarm clocks.  After a grueling (and probably unconstitutional) interrogation, Burns got McManigal to agree to turn state’s evidence.  A warrant was obtained for the arrest of J.J. McNamara.  He was arrested several days later at an executive board meeting of the Iron Workers Union.

National labor leaders condemned the arrests as a frame job.  The union tried to hire famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow to defend the men.  Darrow initially declined due to his failing health, but was eventually convinced to take the case by labor organizer Samuel Gompers.

Darrow quickly realized that the police had a fair amount of evidence against the McNamaras, including the testimony of McManigal, who was not being charged in the case.  He eventually convinced the brothers to plead guilty in order to avoid death sentences.  J.B. McNamara was sentenced to life in prison.  J.J. McNamara got 15 years.  J.B. died in prison in March 1941.  Upon his release, J.J. went back to work for the Iron Workers Union as an organizer.  He died in Butte, MT, two months after his brother’s death.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Los Angeles Times bombing

Wikipedia – William J. Burns

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this day in crime history: september 28, 1973

On this date in 1973, a bomb was detonated at the IT&T building in New York.  The device was placed in the company’s Latin American section.  It caused extensive damage to several offices, but no one was killed or injured.  Another bomb was detonated that day at IT&T’s Rome headquarters.  The Weather Undergound took responsibility for the bombings, which they claimed were in retaliation for the company’s role in the coup that took place in Chile earlier that month.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – List of Weatherman actions

this day in crime history: september 16, 1920

On this date in 1920, an unidentified man stopped his horse-drawn cart in front of the J. P. Morgan building on Wall Street. He got down from the cart and disappeared into the noontime crowd. A short while later, a bomb consisting of dynamite and cast iron slugs detonated on the busy street. Thirty-eight people were killed and over four hundred were injured. Police conducted an exhaustive investigation that lasted over three years, but the case was never solved.

Further reading:

The Street.com: “Previous Terror on Wall Street — A Look at a 1920 Bombing”

FBI: Terror on Wall Street

Wikipedia: “Wall Street bombing”

this day in crime history: august 26, 1980

On this date in 1980, two men made an early morning delivery of what appeared to be computer equipment to the Harvey’s Resort and Casino in Stateline, NV. Harvey’s employees soon discovered the “computer equipment” and the note attached to it. The note informed them that the large package was a bomb, and that it would go off unless the bombers were paid $3 million by the casino.

Police, the FBI, and the ATF were called in. Bomb squad personnel examined the object and confirmed that it was a bomb. The device, which was very sophisticated, contained a large amount of dynamite.

The decision was made to pay the ransom, then concentrate on tracking down the extortionists later. Unfortunately, the delivery of the ransom money – which was to be done by police helicopter – didn’t go off as planned. This left the bomb squad with the task of figuring out how to disarm the largest dynamite bomb anyone in law enforcement had ever seen.

After x-raying the equipment and carefully examining it, the explosive ordnance disposal experts decided that the best was to disarm it way to quickly disconnect the detonators before they could set off the dynamite. To do this, they rigged shaped charges of C-4 and positioned them so they would blow the detonators off. Sand bags were stacked around the bomb to minimize the damage in case the plan didn’t work. This was a good idea, as the plan didn’t work. The shaped charges set the bomb off, destroying most of the casino and causing some damage to the neighboring hotel. Thankfully, there were no injuries from the explosion.

As the ensuing investigation unfolded, a suspect soon emerged: a Hungarian immigrant from Clovis, CA named John Birges. Birges, as it turned out, lost thousands of dollars gambling at Harvey’s. (note to all you high rollers out there: You can lose. That’s why they call it “gambling.”) In the summer of 1981, investigators received a tip that Birges had stolen dynamite from a construction site. Forensic examination matched the dynamite used at the site with that used in the Harvey’s Casino bomb. John Birges was arrested in August 1981, almost a year after the bombing. His three accomplices were soon arrested as well. It wasn’t long before they flipped and agreed to testify against Birges in exchange for lighter sentences. John Birges was convicted of multiple state and federal crimes. He died in prison of liver cancer in 1996.

Further reading:

FBI – Harvey’s Casino Bomb

Wikipedia – Harvey’s Resort Hotel bombing

this day in crime history: june 2, 1919


On this date in 1919, eight bombs exploded in seven different US cities. The bombs, thought to have been the work of followers of Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani, were targeted at people perceived as outspoken critics of the anarchists. The targets, which included the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer (pictured above) were located in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Patterson, NJ. None of the intended targets was killed, but two innocent people died in the explosions.

The June 2nd attacks were part of a campaign of violence that began two months earlier. The Bureau of Investigation (precursor to the FBI) conducted an exhaustive investigation, but were unable to solve the crimes. Later that year, the Justice Department conducted a series of raids and deportations of immigrants believed to be a threat to national security.

Further reading:

FBI Famous Cases: 1919 Bombings

Wikipedia – 1919 United States anarchist bombings

this day in crime history: may 18, 1927


On this date in 1927, Bath, MI became the scene of the largest school mass-murder in U.S. history. The massacre began when school board member Andrew Kehoe became upset over an increase in the school tax that he blamed for his financial ruination.

Kehoe began by killing his wife and detonating fire bombs in his farm buildings. While firefighters worked to put out the fires on Kehoe’s property, Kehoe went to the Bath Consolidated School, where he detonated bombs he had previously planted in the school.

Kehoe left the scene after the explosion, but returned a short while later. He saw the school superintendent standing outside the school watching rescue and recovery efforts and called to him. As the superintendent approached the car, Kehoe detonated a bomb inside the car. The blast killed Kehoe, the superintendent, two local men, and an 8 year old boy who had managed to escape the school bombing.

The Bath School Disaster resulted in 45 dead and 58 injured. In 1975, a park dedicated to the victims was built on the former site of the school.

Further reading:

The Bath School Disaster

Wikipedia – Bath School Disaster 

this day in crime history: april 19, 1995


On this date in 1995, a terrorist bomb was detonated outside the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of six. Almost 700 people were injured.

An hour and a half after the bombing, an Oklahoma State Trooper pulled over a car that did not have a license plate. The driver, Timothy McVeigh, was arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon. McVeigh was soon linked to the bombing by forensic evidence. The investigation led to accomplices Terry Nichols, Michael Fortier, and Fortier’s wife Lori. McVeigh, Nichols and Fortier met while they were in the Army. They were motivated by the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX by the FBI in 1993. The bombing took place on the anniversary of the raid.

McVeigh and Nichols were both convicted of murder and conspiracy. McVeigh was sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Nichols was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. He is currently housed at the Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility at the Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, CO.

Michael Fortier agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for immunity for his wife and a lighter sentence for him. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and a $75,000 fine. He was released after 10 1/2 years and disappeared into the witness protection program.

Some people believe that there were more people involved with the bombing. Theories include involvement by members of militia groups and middle eastern terrorists. The FBI dismisses these theories and considers the case closed.

Further reading:

Oklahoma City Memorial & Museum

Wikipedia – Oklahoma City bombing

Were There More OKC Conspirators?: The Elohim City Connection (Presents evidence of militia group involvement in the bombing)

JaynaDavis.com – From Middle America To The Middle East (Presents evidence of a Middle Eastern connection to the bombing)