this day in crime history: march 12, 1909

LtJoeP

On this date in 1909, New York Police Lieutenant Joe Petrosino was assassinated in Palermo, Sicily.

Born in Padua, Italy in 1860, Giuseppe Petrosino came to the United States as a young boy. In 1883, he joined the New York Police Department. In 1895, then-police Commissioner  Theodore Roosevelt promoted Petrosino to Detective Sergeant in charge of the NYPD’s Homicide Division. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1908 and placed in command of the department’s Italian Squad, a special unit manned by Italian-American officers tasked with investigating Italian organized crime.

While head of the Italian Squad, Petrosino arrested members of the Black Hand organization who were attempting to extort money from opera star Enrico Caruso. While working a case involving an anarchist group, he received a tip that there was a plot to assassinate President McKinley while he was at the World’s Fair in Buffalo, NY. He passed the information on to the Secret Service, but McKinley chose to ignore the warning. This, as it turns out, was a fatal mistake. President McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.

In early 1909, Petrosino planned a trip to Sicily to investigate connections between the Sicilian Mafia and Italian organized crime in the United States. The trip was supposed to be a secret, but NYPD Commissioner Theodore Bingham inadvertently revealed it to the New York Herald, which reported on the impending trip. Petrosino, believing the Italian Mafia would observe the same prohibition on killing police officers as their American counterparts, decided to go anyway.

Lieutenant Petrosino was in Palermo on March 12, 1909, when he went to what he believed would be a meeting with an informant. The meeting was a setup. Petrosino was killed by Mafia assassins. No one was ever convicted of his murder.

Further reading:

New York Times Blog – “A Park Is Renewed, the Better to Honor the Hero in Its Name”

Officer Down Memorial Page – Lieutenant Giuseppe “Joseph” Petrosino

Find a Grave – Joseph Petrosino

Wikipedia – Joseph Petrosino

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this day in crime history: january 22, 1957

On this day in 1957, George Metesky was arrested at his home in Waterbury, CT. Metesky was suspected of being the “Mad Bomber” that had terrorized New York during the 1940s and 50s. In all, he had planted thirty-three bombs. Twenty-two of the bombs exploded, injuring fifteen people. His motive: denial of a worker’s compensation claim against Consolidated Edison in 1931. Metesky’s arrest was the result of an early use of profiling techniques by police. He was found legally insane and committed to a mental institution in 1957. He was released in 1973, and died in 1994 at the age of 90.

Further reading:

NPR: A 16-Year Hunt For New York’s ‘Mad Bomber’

Wikipedia: George Metesky

Time: An article from 1957 titled “George Did It”

this day in crime history: december 22, 1984

On this date in 1984, self-employed electronics repairman Bernhard Goetz just said no to subway mugging. Letting his gun do the talking, Goetz shot four unarmed men he claimed were trying to rob him. He fled the state after the shooting, but turned himself in nine days later in New Hampshire.

Goetz was tried for felony assault, attempted murder, and illegal weapons possession. He was acquitted of the assault and attempted murder charges, but convicted of the weapons charge, for which he served eight months in jail.

Following the criminal trial, Darrell Cabey, one of the men who was shot, filed a lawsuit against Goetz. The jury found Goetz liable for Cabey’s injuries and awarded Cabey – who was left paralyzed by the shooting – $43 million. Goetz responded by filing for bankruptcy.

Since the shooting, Goetz has run unsuccessfully for mayor of New York, and for public advocate. He also founded his own company, appropriately named Vigilante Electronics.

Further reading:

The Eighties Club – The Subway Vigilante

Wikipedia – Bernhard Goetz

Biography Channel  – Bernhard Goetz

this day in crime history: november 12, 1941

On this date in 1941, Murder Inc. associate-turned stool pigeon Abe “Kid Twist” Reles went on a flight. Out the window of room 623 of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. It was a one-way trip. And no frequent flier miles for old Abe Reles, who had flipped on his former Murder, Inc. associates, was under police protection at the time. Did he jump, or was he pushed? Did the cops look the other way, or did they take a more “active” role? Did Reles’s fellow snitches occupying the “Squealers Suite” at the Half Moon have a hand in it? Thanks to a thoroughly shoddy investigation by the police and the Brooklyn D.A., we’ll probably never know for sure. But one thing we do know is that “Kid Twist” traded in his nickname for a new one: “The canary who sang, but couldn’t fly.”

Further Reading:

Wikipedia – Abe Reles

J-Grit – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

The Canary Sang but Couldn’t Fly, by Edmund Elmaleh

this day in crime history: march 12, 1909

LtJoeP

On this date in 1909, New York Police Lieutenant Joe Petrosino was assassinated in Palermo, Sicily.

Born in Padua, Italy in 1860, Giuseppe Petrosino came to the United States as a young boy. In 1883, he joined the New York Police Department. In 1895, then-police Commissioner  Theodore Roosevelt promoted Petrosino to Detective Sergeant in charge of the NYPD’s Homicide Division. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1908 and placed in command of the department’s Italian Squad, a special unit manned by Italian-American officers tasked with investigating Italian organized crime.

While head of the Italian Squad, Petrosino arrested members of the Black Hand organization who were attempting to extort money from opera star Enrico Caruso. While working a case involving an anarchist group, he received a tip that there was a plot to assassinate President McKinley while he was at the World’s Fair in Buffalo, NY. He passed the information on to the Secret Service, but McKinley chose to ignore the warning. This, as it turns out, was a fatal mistake. President McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.

In early 1909, Petrosino planned a trip to Sicily to investigate connections between the Sicilian Mafia and Italian organized crime in the United States. The trip was supposed to be a secret, but NYPD Commissioner Theodore Bingham inadvertently revealed it to the New York Herald, which reported on the impending trip. Petrosino, believing the Italian Mafia would observe the same prohibition on killing police officers as their American counterparts, decided to go anyway.

Lieutenant Petrosino was in Palermo on March 12, 1909, when he went to what he believed would be a meeting with an informant. The meeting was a setup. Petrosino was killed by Mafia assassins. No one was ever convicted of his murder.

Further reading:

New York Times Blog – “A Park Is Renewed, the Better to Honor the Hero in Its Name”

Officer Down Memorial Page – Lieutenant Giuseppe “Joseph” Petrosino

Find a Grave – Joseph Petrosino

Wikipedia – Joseph Petrosino

this day in crime history: december 22, 1984

On this date in 1984, self-employed electronics repairman Bernhard Goetz just said no to subway mugging. Letting his gun do the talking, Goetz shot four unarmed men he claimed were trying to rob him. He fled the state after the shooting, but turned himself in nine days later in New Hampshire.

Goetz was tried for felony assault, attempted murder, and illegal weapons possession. He was acquitted of the assault and attempted murder charges, but convicted of the weapons charge, for which he served eight months in jail.

Following the criminal trial, Darrell Cabey, one of the men who was shot, filed a lawsuit against Goetz. The jury found Goetz liable for Cabey’s injuries and awarded Cabey – who was left paralyzed by the shooting – $43 million. Goetz responded by filing for bankruptcy.

Since the shooting, Goetz has run unsuccessfully for mayor of New York, and for public advocate. He also founded his own company, appropriately named Vigilante Electronics.

Further reading:

The Eighties Club – The Subway Vigilante

Wikipedia – Bernhard Goetz

Biography Channel  – Bernhard Goetz

this day in crime history: november 12, 1941

On this date in 1941, Murder Inc. associate-turned stool pigeon Abe “Kid Twist” Reles went on a flight. Out the window of room 623 of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. It was a one-way trip. And no frequent flier miles for old Abe Reles, who had flipped on his former Murder, Inc. associates, was under police protection at the time. Did he jump, or was he pushed? Did the cops look the other way, or did they take a more “active” role? Did Reles’s fellow snitches occupying the “Squealers Suite” at the Half Moon have a hand in it? Thanks to a thoroughly shoddy investigation by the police and the Brooklyn D.A., we’ll probably never know for sure. But one thing we do know is that “Kid Twist” traded in his nickname for a new one: “The canary who sang, but couldn’t fly.”

Further Reading:

Wikipedia – Abe Reles

J-Grit – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

The Canary Sang but Couldn’t Fly, by Edmund Elmaleh