|Los Angeles Times, Dec. 20, 1917.|
That evening, fruit merchant Pietro Matranga was walking on Eastlake Avenue, heading to his home at 1520 Biggy Street in the northern portion of Los Angeles's Boyle Heights neighborhood (since taken over by county office and court buildings and USC science and medical facilities), when a large, green automobile with a black convertible top pulled up behind him, near the intersection of Eastlake Avenue and Henry Street.
Witnesses said only one man, the driver, was visible in the automobile at that time. Matranga went to the car and conversed with the driver for several minutes. The meeting seemed friendly. Matranga adopted a leisurely posture, placing a foot on the vehicle's runningboard. When the conversation was over, Matranga turned from the car and continued on his way home.
He had taken just a few steps, when a second man, previously concealed, rose up in the back seat of the auto, pointed a shotgun at Matranga's back and fired twice. Matranga had already fallen to the ground, mortally wounded, as the second shot was fired. Slugs from that discharge tore through two fences and shattered a window at 808 Eastlake Avenue. The green vehicle then sped away, turning down Biggy Street toward downtown Los Angeles.
A resident of Biggy Street watched as a green, six-cylinder automobile roared by. The witness later told police there were two men in the car, a driver and a passenger in the rear seat.
|Eastlake Avenue and Henry Street|
The Matranga name was known around the city and particularly well known in the northeastern section around Lincoln Park, where a number of Matrangas and their relatives lived, worked and engaged in criminal enterprises.
Family members had recently been targeted by gunmen of a rival underworld faction. Six weeks earlier, on November 5, Pietro Matranga's brother (or cousin) Rosario "Sam" Matranga was murdered. He returned home, 1837 Darwin Avenue, at an early morning hour, and was driving his automobile toward the garage behind his residence, when he was hit in the back by a load of buckshot fired at close range. According to one press account, the blast nearly took his head off his body. His wife found him dead behind the wheel of his still running vehicle. A year before that, Matranga cousin Tony Pariese was shot in the back by a gunman firing from the rear seat of a large green automobile.
Authorities speculated that the Matrangas were targeted because they had provided information to police on the activities of their underworld foes, a violation of the Mafia's code of silence. It was said that Pariese gave information about a Mafia enforcer named Mike Marino. Police said Marino was working for Mafia interests back East. Pariese's murder occurred one month after he talked with detectives. Rosario Matranga reportedly gave police information about Pariese's killers just days before he became the next murder victim. (One source reported that Rosario informed on a group of arsonists back in 1914-1915, causing three men to be sentenced to prison terms.) Pietro Matranga, a former Black Hand extortion racketeer, supposedly provided information on extortion rackets to police just before he was eliminated by the gunman in the green car.
Police attempted to locate Mike Marino, hoping to charge him with the killings of both Matrangas and Pariese. They said Marino also was wanted in New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego and other cities in connection with other gangland murders.
About a year later, authorities learned that the Matrangas had been engaged in a violent feud with a Mafia faction led by Joseph Ardizzone. That became apparent when one Tony Matranga, sixty-five years of age, was accused of taking shots at Ardizzone's brother Stefano with a high-powered rifle in an effort to avenge the earlier killings.
- "International gunman sought in Mafia case," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 20, 1917, p. II-1.
- "Last Matranga arrested," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 17, 1918, p. II-1.
- "Mafia gunman being sought," Long Beach CA Daily Telegram, Dec. 20, 1917, p. 6.
- "Murdered by Black Hand?" Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1917, p. II-1.
- "Police seeking Mafia as alleged slayers," Los Angeles Evening Express, Nov. 5, 1917, p. 1.
- "Second in one family victim of Black Hand," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19, 1917, p. II-1.
- "Slayer suspects silent," Los Angeles Evening Express, Nov. 6, 1917, p. 10.
- "Still hunt gunman," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 21, 1917, p. II-2.
- "Unknown thug kills Los Angeles Italian," Long Beach CA Press, Nov. 5, 1917, p. 4.
- California Death Index, 1905-1929, State of California Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics and Data Processing, p. 6903.