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

this day in crime history: september 2, 1885

On this day in 1885, white miners working at the Union Pacific coal mine in Rock Springs, WY started a riot that resulted in the murder of over two dozen Chinese immigrants.

The trouble started at the beginning of the work day when ten white miners showed up on the work site and announced that Chinese miners were banned from a more productive part of the mine (workers were paid per ton of coal they mined, making certain work locations more desirable). The confrontation resulted in a fight in which two Chinese miners were beaten. One of the beaten men later died of his wounds.

The white miners walked off the job, resulting in a work stoppage. They went into town where they gathered at local bars, and at the Knights of Labor (a union that was trying to organize the white miners). After a few hours of drinking and fuming about the Chinese miners (who worked for less money than the white miners, and were blamed by the whites for low wages), a large group of white miners headed for Chinatown. Many of the miners were armed.

In the ensuing chaos, 28 Chinese miners were killed, 15 were wounded, and 79 homes were burned to the ground. Many of the homes were looted by white miners before they were burned. At the request of the territorial governor, the Army was called in to restore order.

Sixteen men were eventually arrested, but the grand jury refused to indict them. They returned to a hero’s welcome in Rock Springs. No one was ever successfully prosecuted for the crimes committed that day.

Further reading:

History Matters – “To This We Dissented”: The Rock Springs Riot

Wikipedia – Rock Springs Massacre

Wikipedia – List of victims of the Rock Springs massacre

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

this day in crime history: september 2, 1885

On this day in 1885, white miners working at the Union Pacific coal mine in Rock Springs, WY started a riot that resulted in the murder of over two dozen Chinese immigrants.

The trouble started at the beginning of the work day when ten white miners showed up on the work site and announced that Chinese miners were banned from a more productive part of the mine (workers were paid per ton of coal they mined, making certain work locations more desirable). The confrontation resulted in a fight in which two Chinese miners were beaten. One of the beaten men later died of his wounds.

The white miners walked off the job, resulting in a work stoppage. They went into town where they gathered at local bars, and at the Knights of Labor (a union that was trying to organize the white miners). After a few hours of drinking and fuming about the Chinese miners (who worked for less money than the white miners, and were blamed by the whites for low wages), a large group of white miners headed for Chinatown. Many of the miners were armed.

In the ensuing chaos, 28 Chinese miners were killed, 15 were wounded, and 79 homes were burned to the ground. Many of the homes were looted by white miners before they were burned. At the request of the territorial governor, the Army was called in to restore order.

Sixteen men were eventually arrested, but the grand jury refused to indict them. They returned to a hero’s welcome in Rock Springs. No one was ever successfully prosecuted for the crimes committed that day.

Further reading:

History Matters – “To This We Dissented”: The Rock Springs Riot

Wikipedia – Rock Springs Massacre

Wikipedia – List of victims of the Rock Springs massacre

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

this day in crime history: september 2, 1885

On this day in 1885, white miners working at the Union Pacific coal mine in Rock Springs, WY started a riot that resulted in the murder of over two dozen Chinese immigrants.

The trouble started at the beginning of the work day when ten white miners showed up on the work site and announced that Chinese miners were banned from a more productive part of the mine (workers were paid per ton of coal they mined, making certain work locations more desirable). The confrontation resulted in a fight in which two Chinese miners were beaten. One of the beaten men later died of his wounds.

The white miners walked off the job, resulting in a work stoppage. They went into town where they gathered at local bars, and at the Knights of Labor (a union that was trying to organize the white miners). After a few hours of drinking and fuming about the Chinese miners (who worked for less money than the white miners, and were blamed by the whites for low wages), a large group of white miners headed for Chinatown. Many of the miners were armed.

In the ensuing chaos, 28 Chinese miners were killed, 15 were wounded, and 79 homes were burned to the ground. Many of the homes were looted by white miners before they were burned. At the request of the territorial governor, the Army was called in to restore order.

Sixteen men were eventually arrested, but the grand jury refused to indict them. They returned to a hero’s welcome in Rock Springs. No one was ever successfully prosecuted for the crimes committed that day.

Further reading:

History Matters – “To This We Dissented”: The Rock Springs Riot

Wikipedia – Rock Springs Massacre

Wikipedia – List of victims of the Rock Springs massacre

this day in crime history: may 30, 1937

mdm1937

On this date in 1937, ten unarmed demonstrators were shot and killed by Chicago Police outside the Republic Steel mill. The demonstrators were members of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. They were on strike against Republic and other steel companies that had refused to sign a labor agreement similar to one reached with U.S. Steel, the largest of the American steel companies.

On Memorial Day, hundreds gathered at SWOC headquarters and prepared to march on Republic Steel. As they neared the mill, their path was blocked by members of the Chicago Police Department. The protestors were told to turn back. When they refused, the police answered with tear gas, billy clubs and bullets. Ten of the protestors were killed, dozens more were injured.

A coroner’s jury would later rule the deaths as “justifiable homicide.”

If you’d like to judge for yourself whether deadly force was justified, check out this video of the incident. The violence starts about five and a half minutes into the video. Not a great moment in Chicago Police history.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Memorial Day Massacre of 1937

Chicagoist – Flashback: Memorial Day Massacre of 1937