06 May 2017

127 years ago: Ambush in New Orleans

Six stevedores of New Orleans' Matranga and Locascio firm were heading home in a horse-drawn "spring wagon" after a late night unloading fruit from the steamship Foxhall. Tony Matranga, Bastiano Incardona, Anthony Locascio, Rocco Geraci, Salvatore Sunseri and Vincent Caruso all lived close together, and generally took the same route home from their work at the docks.
Daily Picayune, May 6, 1890 Daily Picayune, May 7, 1890
Their wagon reached the intersection of Claiborne Street and the Esplanade close to one o'clock in the morning, May 6, 1890.

There were flashes of light accompanied by the thunder of rapid gunshots from a cluster of trees nearby. Dozens of bullets crashed into the wagon. Matranga's left knee was completely shattered by a large caliber slug. (His leg was later amputated at the lower thigh.) Caruso suffered a smaller caliber gunshot wound to his right thigh and another to his right calf, which severed the nerve to his foot. A large slug tore a gaping wound just above Sunseri's hip.

Times-Democrat, May 7, 1890
Some of the Matranga men drew firearms and shot in the direction of the trees. The gunfight ended as suddenly as it began. The attacking gunmen ran off on Claiborne to Kerlerec Street and then toward the river.

When police arrived, it was immediately clear that the Provenzano and Matranga families - rival powers in Crescent City underworld rackets - were once again at war. Leading members of the Provenzano family and their known associates were gathered up and placed under arrest.

New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy, who had only recently brokered a truce between the feuding Provenzano and Matranga families, took personal charge of the investigation. In a few months, his decision to become involved and the outcomes of Provenzano trials would cause him to be targeted for assassination by the Matranga Mafia.

Read more about the Provenzano-Matranga feud and the early history of the New Orleans Mafia in:

Deep Water:
Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia
by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon


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