Showing posts with label Patrick Downey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Patrick Downey. Show all posts

26 April 2018

Gangster Profile: Ted Newberry


“He must have done something. They don’t kill you for nothing.”

The above quote is credited to gangster Edward “Ted” Newberry, the last racketeer king of Chicago’s North Side, whose corpse was found on a lonely stretch of road in Indiana on January 8, 1933. So, who was Ted Newberry and what did he do to deserve the proverbial “one way ride?”

Ted Newberry
Newberry was born on Chicago’s Northwest side on June 28, 1898, and seems to have been involved in crime most of his adult life. As a young adult he had a job as a “superintendent” at the Checker Cab Company. What he did as superintendent isn’t known for sure but it probably had something to do with sabotaging rival Yellow Cab. While there he became involved with another infamous Chicago hoodlum named Eugene “Red” Moran, whose brother Robert, became head of the company and a lifelong friend of Newberry’s.

By 1924 Newberry had moved into bootlegging and was working with a guy named Leon Tarr, who had a working relationship with another bootlegger named Harry Callan. The latter catered to the well-to-do crowd of Chicago’s “Gold Coast.” According to Callan, he “tipped” Tarr off to a customer who bought $7,000 worth of booze but never paid Callan his share. Callan called him on it and a meeting was set up. Callan was waiting on a park bench when Tarr showed up with Newberry and another guy named Arresti Cappola. Callan said that he challenged Tarr to a fist fight but Tarr drew a gun and shot him.

Callan stumbled to a cop and was taken to a hospital where he spilled the beans on how he came to be shot. Newberry was picked up for the shooting but nothing came of it. A few months later however, he took part in the murder of an Innkeeper, which almost cost him his freedom.


Omar Finch, about 59 years old, and his son Cole, 29, had a good thing going. They bought denatured alcohol and redistilled it into quality grain alcohol which they resold to numerous other saloonkeepers.
On December 11, 1924, Newberry and three confederates, one of whom was purported to be his colleague from the Checker Cab Co., Eugen “Red” McLaughlin, posed as Prohibition agents and kidnapped Finch in an attempt to extort him.

Finch was transporting four barrels of alcohol when he was pulled over by Newberry and his confederates. After taking his, stuff, Newberry and his associates brought him to a hotel on Chicago’s North Side where they demanded $5000 to let him go. Finch told them that he didn’t have that kind of cash but that he could raise a thousand. Newberry agreed to accept that as a down payment. They made an appointment the next day to receive the money and let Finch go.

According to Finch’s son Cole, the following day his father decided that the four barrels of alcohol weren’t worth a grand, so he decided not to pay the money. Acting under the belief that Newberry and his gang were actual Prohibition agents and not murderous thugs, Finch and his son went and moved their still and all remaining evidence. Finch believed that Newberry and company couldn’t do anything with the four barrels of alcohol and that they couldn’t prosecute him after attempting to shake him down and then letting him go. Assuming he pulled one over on the agents, Finch blew off the meeting.

A few hours later the gang burst into Finch’s saloon. They called him a double crosser then drew guns and opened fire at the saloonkeeper. One bullet proved fatal and Finch died at the hospital.

Newberry’s involvement came to the attention of the police when two young bootleggers reported that a gang of hijackers had stolen their car and their liquor on December 10. The bootleggers said that the hijackers told them they could have their car and liquor back if they paid $200. They also stated that one of the men in the car was Omar Finch. The auto used by the gangsters was described to the police who were able to trace it back to Newberry.

Newberry's sedan
 After the murder of his father, Cole Finch left town but returned after the arrest of Newberry. Though his wife received calls threatening that if her husband talked he’d be dead in twenty-four hours, Cole assured authorities that he would testify.

A federal investigator stated that by posing as Prohibition agents, Newberry’s gang had extorted thousands of dollars from over thirty saloonkeepers. “A federal badge was found in Newberry’s possession, and we know he used it on more than one occasion,” United States District Attorney Edwin Olson told the press. “Conviction on that alone would mean a penitentiary sentence.”

Newberry at time of arrest
In addition to having Newberry’s car and badge, prosecutors also had Bell boys from the hotel where they kept Finch who could identify Newberry. They also had Cole and two other witnesses from the saloon that could identify Newberry as one of the killers. It didn’t look good for Newberry. But this was Chicago and although the lead up to the trial was well covered in the press, the trial itself was not. It wasn’t stated what happened but Newberry apparently went free.

By the end of the decade Newberry was a big shot on the Northwest Side of Chicago controlling the alcohol and gambling. He was considered a strong ally to the North Side gangsters headed by Bugs Moran. In fact Newberry was with Moran on the Morning of February 14, 1929 when the latter was on his way to the gang’s headquarters. As they approached their destination, they saw a couple of detective cars pull up so they took a walk. Who they thought were cops were actually gunmen employed by Al Capone who entered the garage and murdered seven of Moran’s boys.

Three months later Capone was arrested in Philadelphia on a gun charge and sentenced to a year in prison.

It appears that the Capone gang may have had their gun sights fixed on Newberry as well. On November 30, 1929, Newberry was slightly wounded in a drive-by as he was approaching a club said to be run by Moran’s gang A little over a month later, according to the Chicago Tribune, Newberry learned of a machinegun nest that was planted in an apartment across the street from his headquarters. Once this was found out, Newberry high tailed it to Canada and his second in command, Al Shimberg, fled to Michigan. Left to run things were subordinates Benny Bennett and John Rito, known as the “Billiken.”

Around the first of February Bennett disappeared. About a month later, Rito likewise disappeared but he didn’t stay disappeared for long. After spending two weeks under water, his body broke loose from its constraints and floated to the top of the Chicago River.

John "the Billiken" Rito
The day after the Billikin surfaced, Capone was released from the Eastern State Penitentiary and returned home. At some point a peace was made between Newberry and Capone and the latter recognized the former as the leader of the North Side. To commemorate, Capone gave Newberry a diamond studded belt buckle, a gift that the big guy seemed to bestow on a lot of his esteemed colleagues.

As the top man on the North Side, Newberry was frequently in the papers. He was said to be involved in bucket shops as well as an attempt to organize racetrack workers. He was also arrested for the usual stuff i.e. murder and bootlegging.



 
One murder that garnished him much attention was that of Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle when it was discovered that Lingle was killed with a gun that was sold, in part, to Newberry. Though the gang leader wasn’t responsible for the murder of Lingle, Jack Zuta, a North Side associate was, and, since Lingle’s murder adversely affected every gangster in Chicago, Zuta had to be killed. When he got his, witnesses stated that one of the gunmen was Newberry. The accusation was never proved.

The beginning of the end for Newberry came when Capone was sent away for good in the spring of 1932. Newberry and Frank Nitti, Capone’s successor, did not get along. Reasons given are that, with Capone gone, poor management plus lower earnings due to the depression, led to the Capone organization not earning what it once did. The North Side however, which catered to the wealthy, weathered the depression better and was still making money. Nitti and Co. began to eye Newberry’s fiefdom in a most coveted manner and they started to chip away at his empire. It was also said that Newberry owed the Capone gang a large sum of money and to guarantee a return they inserted a representative to oversee affairs.

The person they sent was Gus Winkeler, who had a good relationship with Newberry, but other Syndicate men followed. Soon, Newberry felt that he was being squeezed out. His response was to have Nitti killed. On December 19, 1932 police raided Nitti’s office and one of the officers shot the gang leader a number of times, supposedly in self-defense.

It was a sloppy attempt and Nitti survived. The wounded gang leader figured out straight away who was behind the botched hit and, less than three weeks later, Newberry’s body was found. Around his waist, the diamond studded belt buckle given to him by Al Capone; a reminder of the good old days.

Officer points to where Newberry's body was found

Sources:

Mr. Capone, Schoenberg, Robert, William Morrow and Company,1992
Al Capone and His American Boys, Helmer, William, Indiana University Press, 2011
Capone, Kobler, John, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1971
The Man Who Got Away, Keefe, Rose, Cumberland House Publishing, 2005


"De Luxe Rum Broker Shot" Chicago Tribune 09.27.1924
"Elite Rum Baron Ready to Give Up in Shooting" Chicago Tribune 09.28.1924
"It Was Shoot or Get Shot Says Leon Tarr" Chicago Tribune 10.08.1924
"Village Saloon Keeper Shot to Death By Gang" Chicago Tribune 12.12.1924
"Witnesses Call Newberry One of Finch's Slayers" Chicago Tribune 12.21.1924
"Seize Hijacker; Finch Slaying Solved, Belief"  Chicago Tribune 12.20.1924
"Detectives Seek Newberry's Pals" Moline Dispatch 12.23.1924
"Ted Newberry Indicted; Writ Moved Balked"12.23. Chicago Tribune 1924
 "Billiken Rito is Shot to Death; Pal is Missing" Chicago Tribune 03.17.1930
"Ted Newberry Taken on Gang Ride and Slain" Chicago Tribune 01.08.1933

18 April 2018

Motor City Mayhem



Detroit was suffering a stifling heatwave on September 3, 1927 when William Gilbreath was driving home at ten p.m. Though somewhat late in the evening, the sidewalks were still teeming with pedestrians and the streets were full of cars. During his trip, Gilbreath remembered that he needed to pick something up from the drug store. Seeing one on the corner he pulled his car to the curb and hopped out. As he approached the store he heard a voice from behind, “Get back in that car and don’t make any fuss about it.” He turned to find a younger man brandishing a gun. Two other men turned the corner and closed in. They escorted Gilbreath back to his car and ordered him to get behind the wheel. One of the men climbed in the front seat with him and the other two hopped in the back. Once they were all in the car, the other two guys drew thirty-eights from their pockets. To Gilbreath’s shock, none of the numerous pedestrians who were walking or driving by seemed to notice the kidnapping.
     “Drive around the block.” The gunman up front demanded.
Gilbreath followed the order. After a bit, the gunman jammed his thirty eight into Gilbreath’s side.
     “All right, you, stop this car and climb in the back.”
Gilbreath switched places with one of the gunmen and for the next two hours they drove around searching for a place to rob. The bandits pulled up to a handful of drug stores with the intention of robbing them but, each time, decided that there were too many customers inside. At 11:15 they pulled into a gas station owned and operated by Ted Malm. The driver told Malm to” fill ‘er up” and, when the proprietor came around to collect payment, instead of cash, he found the business end of a thirty-eight.
“Get in.” the driver commanded. Malm climbed into the car as two of the gunmen walked into the station and helped themselves to the cash in the register.

With their new prisoner, the bandits continued to drive around looking for opportunities. After a while they decided to rob a pedestrian. Just then they saw a guy enter the court to an apartment building and two of the gunmen leapt from the car and approached him. One of them called out to the man, Edmund Weiner, a mechanic who worked for the Ford Motor Company, as he was about to enter the building. As Weiner turned to reply the gunman smashed him over the head with the butt of his gun. Weiner let out a scream and the gunmen proceeded to beat him as he tried to fight them off. Weiner’s yells filled the air as one of the bandits continued to beat him over the head with his pistol while dragging him from the courtyard out to the street. Weiner was pulled to the car and tossed in the back.

Inside the auto it was discovered that Weiner only had two nickels in cash. This, and the fact that he wouldn’t stop screaming, led all of the bandits to start wailing on him again. Pleading for his life, Weiner cried that he had a wife and two daughters to support. The hoodlums couldn’t have cared less. They continued to rain blows down upon him as he persisted in his screaming. A few minutes passed and one of the bandits jumped behind the wheel and pulled away while another yelled at the wounded man to be quiet.

After a short drive, the bandits pulled over and told their three captives to get out and lie on the ground. After searching them for anything of value, one of the gunmen warned the trio that if they got up too soon, they would “get their damn heads blown off.” The bandits got back in Gilbreath’s car and drove off. Gilbreath and Malm helped Weiner to a drug store where some citizens offered to drive him to the hospital. Unfortunately, Weiner took to many blows to his head; he died of his wounds the following morning.


With the brutal slaying of Wiener, the case became well publicized. All of the Detroit newspapers demanded police action, which was slow in coming. In an interview, Gilbreath mentioned that during the ride, they drove past a couple of beat cops standing on a corner. One of the gunmen said that they should bump them off, but another stated that he knew one of the cops. Detroiters wondered why a police officer would be friendly with a gun toting thug. Within a few days, six ranking police officers were walking a beat for being in “contact with the criminal element.” Around the same time, the front page of the Detroit Times quoted Weiner’s wife as saying, “May God punish the murderers of my husband. I don’t know what we can do. We are penniless now without his salary. My baby girl keeps asking where Daddy is but I cannot tell her for she is too young to understand.”

Through the Detroit Times, Gilbreath set up a fund for Weiner’s family and over the next few weeks donations came pouring into the Times. In all, Weiner’s widow was presented with over $5,400. Some folks offered their services. A cobbler offered free shoe repair for a year and a bakery pledged a free loaf of bread every day for the same amount of time.

On September 14, Detroit Police got their first break in the case. While searching for clues regarding a string of drug store robberies, detectives were canvassing the establishments that had been held up and walked into the Saylor Drug Store to question the clerks. When two of the detectives entered, (a third remained in the car) they noticed that no clerks were about. Assuming that they were in the back whipping up prescriptions, they waited. After a moment a guy walked out from the rear of the store. As he walked around the counter, he smiled at the detectives and said, “Well, goodnight boys!” before exiting the store. The detectives got a bad vibe from him but assumed that the drug store was doubling as a speakeasy and the guy simply had a drink or two. Moments later another guy walked out but this one had a gun in his hand and caught the detectives off guard. “Stick ‘em up, both of you.” He barked.

The detectives complied but since there was about six feet distance between them, the gunman had to swing his pistol back and forth to cover each man. At one point his eyes fell on one of the detectives’ pocket watch. Seizing the opportunity, the other detective drew his gun and fired. The first bullet hit the bandit under the arm and pierced his chest. The bandit turned and fired a wild shot as three more slugs slammed into his body. The hoodlum staggered, reached out and grabbed the pocket watch he had been eyeing and dropped to the floor. He gave his name as Robert Meyers and died a half hour later at the hospital. Gilbreath and Malm were brought to the morgue where they identified Meyers as both the leader of the desperadoes and the driver of the car, the night of Weiner’s murder.


Gilbreath (L) and Malm (R) Identify Meyers


A week after Meyers got his, police received a tip that two questionable men were living in a cottage in nearby Gross Pointe Park. After staking out the joint for the better part of the evening, detectives went in and arrested both men and their girlfriends. One of the guys arrested turned out to be the man who exited the drug store saying, “Well, good night boys!” the other was the getaway driver (Police were unaware that there was a driver that day. During his confession he stated that, when he saw the detectives pull up to the drug store, he honked the horn as a warning and took off.)
Both men admitted to being accomplices of Meyers but denied being in on the Weiner murder. Gilbreath and Malm were brought in and both stated that neither bandit was involved. The gunmen told detectives that Meyers worked with a handful of different bandits but they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give any names. It didn’t matter because the next day another one of the hoodlums fell to police bullets.


At three-fifteen the following afternoon, a patrol was standing on the corner when a pedestrian came up and told him that he had been robbed on September 12, and that he just saw the man who did it. The citizen pointed him out and the officer started for the suspect. Seeing the officer approach, the suspect dodged behind a tree and drew a pistol. The officer did likewise and both men started shooting at each other. After a few volleys the desperado let out scream and fell to the ground. His cheek had been pierced by a bullet. Assuming his man was down for good, the officer approached and went to disarm him. The gunman had some fight left in him however, and the two began to grapple for control of the cop’s gun. The bandit wrestled it free and shot the officer in the stomach. As the policeman crumpled to the ground, the gunman ran off. Two citizens rushed the officer to the hospital where he made a full recovery.

Meanwhile, cops began combing the neighborhood looking for the gunman who had ran into a nearby garage. Inside was the homeowner and the hoodlum forced him into the house at gunpoint. The desperado told him to hide him in a closet. The homeowner opened a door, “Get into the closet with me.” The gunman ordered. As the gunman hid himself behind some clothes, a police officer entered the house. The homeowner jumped from the closet doorway and the cop pushed the clothes out of the way and fired into the gunman. With a bullet in his belly, the hoodlum dropped to the floor and began groaning for his mother.

At the hospital the hoodlum identified himself as nineteen- year- old Joe Subko of Akron, Ohio. Gilbreath and Malm were brought in to take a look at him. Without hesitation, Gilbreath identified him as the man who had assaulted Weiner. Although Malm was reasonably certain that Subko was the man, he asked if he could see him dressed in street clothes to make sure. During this time, Subko died of his wounds, so they dressed him in his clothes and let Malm take another look. Once this was done Malm declared him the man.


Subko redressed for identification. Note bullet hole in cheek.



It turned out that Subko was also a mini-crime wave of his own independent of Meyers. Victims of, who the police called, the “Hitch Hike Bandit” an armed man who robbed numerous motorist that picked him up, were also called in and identified Subko as the bandit. Though Gilbreath, Malm and Mrs. Weiner received some satisfaction in the wiping out of Meyers and Subko, unfortunately for Justice, the third man involved in the kidnappings and robberies was never found out.


References

“Snaring Detroit’s Kidnapping Killers” True Detective Mysteries November 1934
“3 Thugs Kidnap W.S. Gilbreath, Slay Another” Detroit Free Press, September 5, 1927
"Familiarity Of Thugs And Cops Under Inquiry"St. Joseph Herald Press September 6, 1927
“Officer Defies Robber’s Gun, Kills Bandit” Detroit Free Pres, September 15, 1927
“Crook Mental Test Failure Blow To Police” Detroit Free Press, September 17, 1927
“Hat Identifies Leader of Weiner’s Slayers” Detroit Free Press, September 18, 1927
“Man Slain, Second Dying After Battles With Policemen”, Detroit Free Press September 24, 1927
“Second Weiner Slayer Killed By Policeman’s Bullet”, Detroit Free Press September 25, 1927

23 December 2017

Gangsters move to the Big Screen II



The Public Enemy  - Starring James Cagney and Edward Burns. Released May 15, 1931

This gangster pic was released four months after Little Caesar and like the latter the story takes place in Chicago. Whereas Little Caesar dealt with the Italian underworld, the former deals with Irish hoodlums.


Like its predecessor, The Public Enemy also bases some of its characters and scenes on reality. The model for Paddy Ryan’s gang was Chicago’s North Side gang. One of the main gangsters with the mob is a big shot named Nails Nathan who is a guiding force of Tom Powers (James Cagney) and his friend Matt Doyle (Edward Burns). In the movie Nails Nathan gets thrown from a horse and is accidentally killed. Upset with the death of their friend and mentor, Powers and Doyle go to the stables and shoot the horse that Nathan was riding when killed. Sounds like pure Hollywood invention right? Nope. Actually happened. The Nails Nathan character is based on an actual Chicago gangster named Samuel “Nails” Morton, a top member of the North Side gang who was popular with his associates. Just like in the film, Morton was thrown from a horse and killed while out pleasure riding and his friends really did go to the stable and kill the horse. 

Nails Morton Chicago gangster rubbed out by a horse
The main foe of the Paddy Ryan mob is the gang headed by “Schemer” Burns. Cute nickname, anyone in Chicago with that moniker? Yup, but it was a North Sider, Schemer Drucci.

In the movie, a gang war breaks out  and there is a scene where Powers and Doyle are walking along the street and rival gangsters, who have been staking out their hideout from a machine gun nest in a second story apartment window, open fire and kill Doyle. This scene is inspired by the murder of North Side gangster Earl “Hymie” Weiss who was taken out by a machine gun nest while approaching the gang’s headquarters.

The film ends with the rival gang kidnapping a wounded Powers from the hospital and taking him for a one way ride. Gangsters wouldn't actually invade a hospital to finish a job would they? Well, turns out that idea may have been snatched from gangdom as well. Though not kidnapped, a year or so before the movie was released, a Newark, New Jersey gangster by the name of John "The Ape" Passelli was bumped off in the hospital while recuperating from a botched hit. 




Any other scenes or characters that are familiar to you?