Americas,  Charlotte,  United States

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

1618021_orig In what is now a parking lot in North Chicago, Illinois was once a garage that became infamous for the bloodiest day in mob history.

A bit of back story to set the scene.

1920s Chicago was a place filled to the brim with gangsters, violence, murder, prostitution, bootlegging and police corruption. The city was split up into two factions, one in South Chicago, the other in North Chicago, and these two gangster factions had a history of rivalry. Of course, the bosses of these gangs changed hands frequently, due to either death, prison, or the occasional stepping down for various reasons.

South Chicago was run by none other than Al “Scarface” Capone who took over as boss in 1925 when the previous boss moved to Brooklyn after being shot in an assassination attempt. (For more information on Al Capone, please refer to our previous post on the gangster here: North Chicago was run by George “Bugs” Moran, who became boss in 1926 after a successful assassination attempt was made on his boss.

5556629_origThese two factions rubbed each other the wrong way because they were both in the same lucrative businesses: bootlegging and prostitution. If both factions continued their alcohol rackets and prostitution rings, then the other was losing out on valuable income and business.

The mid-to-late 1920s saw an increase of murders throughout the city, by 1929 there were 64 confirmed organised crime related murders in one year. The gunning down of rivals to business was just another daily part of life for a gangster, and it was not limited to other gangs but to anyone who threatened a gang or their members.

The two gang leaders were well known to all to be enemies especially as the South Chicago gang were the ones who ordered the assassination on Bugs’ boss, cementing the feud. The two were on a constant back and forth battle with one another, so much so that Bugs murdered any one that he could that was close to Capone, stole his liquor and burned his nightclubs.

This was the tension that was mounting between the two gangs up until February 14, 1929.
Business was as usual. Five of Bugs’ men had gathered at the garage awaiting their boss who was due to arrive; with the five men was the gang’s mechanic who worked the garage, and a gang affiliate, Reinhardt Schwimmer, an optometrist.

What happens next has been shrouded in mystery ever since that fateful day 87 years ago. The best estimation is that 4 men arrived at the garage, two of whom were dressed as police officers and two as civilians, and shot the place up. The seven men of the North Chicago gang had been lined up, as if part of a police raid and interrogation/arrest, this is known to be true as all seven of the men were found dead lined up, on the ground, near a wall. It had been reported that over 160 bullets casings (other sources are more conservative saying 70 rounds) were strewn across the floor of the garage sitting in rivers of blood. Bugs, coincidentally, was only minutes away from arriving at the garage when the hit took place.

3714071_origOne man was still alive when police arrived at the scene but the man refused to speak and succumbed to the injuries without ever uttering a word of what occurred. There were no witnesses. No one would speak. Fear of the gangs of Chicago prevented all involved to keep quiet as talking would mean instant death. Police had nothing to go on. Investigation techniques in the 1920s were still fairly primitive as far as our standards are concerned today. There was no DNA evidence, even fingerprinting was in its infancy preventing the police from gathering any viable evidence. Also, there were possibilities of police corruption that may have played a large role; how many of the police officers were on a gang’s payroll we will never know.

The person who was most likely thought to be responsible was, of course, Al Capone. Although Capone was never a suspect at the trial and he willingly admitted in a testimony that he was in Florida at the time of the shooting thus venerating him from involvement, we all know that crime bosses can order hits from anywhere, but that is just a hunch, nothing has been proven.

No one was ever charged with the murders. The four mysterious men were never found and Capone was never tried but that didn’t stop the public from thinking he was responsible since he and Bugs had been publicly feuding for so long. As a result, Capone became known as Public Enemy Number 1 after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Remember though that he was not in Chicago at the time and all those around Capone have stated that he had nothing to do with the hit.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was a day to go down in history for mobs across the nation.