this day in crime history: march 16, 1934


On this date in 1934, Herbert Youngblood, an accused murderer who escaped from the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, IN with John Dillinger, was killed in a shootout with police in Port Huron, MI. Undersheriff Charles Cavanaugh was also killed in the shootout, which left two lawmen and a civilian injured.

Further reading:

Time“Bad Man at Large”

Dillinger: The Untold Story, by G. Russell Girardin, William J. Helmer, and Rick Mattix

YOUNGBLOOD IS SLAIN IN BATTLE

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: march 11, 2005

On this date in 2005, Brian Nichols, the defendant in a rape case in Atlanta, overpowered the deputy assigned to guard him and took her gun. Nichols then went on a shooting spree that left four people dead. He was arrested after police received a tip from Ashley Smith, a woman Nichols had held hostage for seven hours after escaping from the court house.

After multiple delays, Nichols was tried on 54 criminal counts in October 2008. The jury found him guilty on all counts. He received multiple life sentences, with no possibility for parole.

Further reading:

About.com – Brian Nichols: Atlanta Courthouse Killer

Wikipedia – Brian Nichols

this day in crime history: january 11, 1794

On this date in 1794, Robert Forsyth became the first U.S. Marshal killed in the line of duty. Forsyth, who was appointed U.S. Marshal in Georgia by President George Washington, was accompanied by two of his deputies as he attempted to serve civil legal papers on brothers Beverly and William Allen. When Forsyth knocked on the door to the room where Beverly Allen (a former Methodist minister who probably had a chip on his shoulder over being tagged with an unmanly name) was hiding, Allen shot him in the head, killing him.

Beverly Allen was eventually arrested for murdering Forsyth, but he escaped, never to be recaptured.

Further reading:

U.S. Justice Department – The First Marshal of Georgia: Robert Forsyth

this day in crime history: january 5, 1945

On this date in 1945, Albany, NY Police Chief William Fitzpatrick was shot and killed in his office at police headquarters. It all started when the Chief’s bodyguard and longtime friend, Detective John McElveney, entered the office at 3:00 PM. The two men began to argue. The argument ended at 3:10 when Detective McElveney drew his pistol and shot Chief Fitzpatrick in the head, killing him.

According to the Albany Police and the D.A.’s office, the argument was part of an “ongoing dispute.” Contemporary news reports suggest the dispute was over payment for recent dental work done to correct injuries McElveney suffered after having been struck by Fitzpatrick.

Detective McElveney was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, avoiding the appointment with the electric chair that usually awaited most cop killers back in those days. He was released in 1957, when his sentence was commuted by Governor Averill Harriman. He died of cancer in 1968 at the age of 71.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy, the late Dan O’Connell, founder and former chair of the Albany Democratic political machine, told him that Chief Fitzpatrick, back when he was a sergeant, was one of the gunmen who killed gangster Legs Diamond in 1931. Of course Chief Fitzpatrick was conveniently dead when this accusation was made, and therefore unable to dispute O’Connell. Or sue him for defamation.

Further reading:

Albany Police – Chief William J. Fitzpatrick

O Albany!, by William Kennedy

Schenectady Gazette, January 29, 1946 – “Pleads Guilty to 2nd Degree Murder Count”

Legs Diamond: Gangster, by Patrick Downey

this day in crime history: january 3, 1791

Police Officers Memorial, Albany, NY

On this date in 1791, a posse in Stephentown, NY attempted to arrest local resident Whiting Sweeting on a warrant for theft. Sweeting resisted, and in the process of arresting him, Albany County Constable Darius Quimby was stabbed. Quimby later died of his wounds. He is commonly believed to be the first law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in U.S. history. Sweeting was charged with Quimby’s murder. He was convicted in July of 1791 and was executed the following month.

Further reading:

Officer Down Memorial Page – Constable Darius Quimby (Note: This is one of many online sources that incorrectly state that Quimby was shot)

An NYCHS Timeline on Executions by Hanging in New York State

Ancestry Message Boards – Whiting Sweeting, Darius Quimby

this day in crime history: december 13, 2000

Texas7

On this date in 2000, seven inmates escaped from the John B. Connally Unit, a maximum security prison near Kenedy, TX. The inmates, who came to be known as the Texas Seven, overpowered corrections officers and civilian employees in the prison maintenance shop. They stole clothes, guns and a vehicle that they used to make their getaway.

After switching cars, the gang went to Pearland, TX, where they robbed a Radio Shack on December 14th. Five days later, they robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, TX. Their haul included cash, guns and ammunition. Before making their getaway, the gang was confronted by Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Hawkins was ambushed by the gang, who shot him eleven times, then ran him over as they fled the scene of the crime. Hawkins later died of his injuries.

The gang made their way to Colorado, where they purchased a motor home and set up house at a trailer park in Woodland, CO. On January 21, 2001, the owner of the trailer park, tipped off by a friend who saw the group profiled on America’s Most Wanted, called police and reported the whereabouts of the fugitives.

A police SWAT team was deployed to the park. Officers cornered five of the men. Four of them eventually surrendered after a brief standoff. The fifth committed suicide rather than going back to prison.

Two days later, police tracked the two remaining fugitives to a hotel in Colorado Springs. After a short standoff, during which the escaped convicts gave a telephone interview to the news media, the men surrendered.

All six of the surviving escapees were tried and convicted of capital murder. Three of them have been executed. The remaining three are currently on death row at the Polunsky Unit prison in West Livingston, TX.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Texas Seven

The Dallas Morning News‘Texas 7’ escapee executed for killing Irving police officer

Irving Police – Officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins #830