killed in East Village shooting
On this date in 1922: Mafia assassin Umberto Valente was gunned down in a bold daylight shooting on a busy Manhattan street corner.
Valente reached the runningboard of the taxi and tried to return fire before collapsing unconscious to the street. His attackers fired a few shots toward a gathering crowd and made their escape through the basement of an apartment building at 233 East 12th Street.
Stray slugs wounded a New York street cleaner and an eleven-year-old girl from New Haven, Connecticut, who was in New York City visiting her grandfather.
NYPD Detective Sgt. Kirk witnessed the end of the gunfight from a streetcar. He rushed to the fallen Valente and commandeered an automobile to take Valente to St. Mark's Hospital. Valente never regained consciousness. He died of his wounds about an hour later.
According to an often repeated underworld legend (told and likely created by the notoriously inventive David Leon Chandler), the gunman who fired the fatal shots into Valenti was Salvatore Lucania (later known as Charlie Luciano), at that time an underling of Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. Evidence in support of the tale is lacking. Lucania's only documented brush with the law in August of 1922 occurred near the end of the month when his car was pulled over for a traffic violation.
Investigators determined that Valente had been responsible for the attempted murder of Giuseppe Masseria a few days earlier on August 8. Masseria surprisingly escaped unharmed - except for a couple of bullet holes through his straw hat - after being cornered by a gunman near his home, 80 Second Avenue (less than half a mile from the spot where Valente was killed). On the afternoon of the eleventh, police found Masseria at his home, insisting that he had not been out of the building and knew nothing of the attack on Valente. His denials were unconvincing. It was assumed that Masseria either directly participated in or ordered the shooting of Valente.
Already awaiting a murder trial for the shooting death of Silvio Tagliagambe two months earlier, Masseria was charged also with the murder of Valente.
Police hypothesized that Masseria and Valente, both known to be involved in Manhattan bootlegging and gambling rackets, had become underworld rivals. Much later, authorities learned that Masseria and allies were engaged in a gangland war with reigning Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila. Valente had been assigned by D'Aquila to eliminate Joe the Boss.
- "Eight men shot in mysterious battle on street," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1922, p. 1.
- "Gunmen shoot six in East Side swarm," New York Times, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 1.
- "Cloakmaker, victim of gunman, dies; 3 more in hospital," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 20.
- "Gunman's volley fatal to striker," New York Times, Aug. 10, 1922, p. 13
- "Car used in street battle traced here," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 10, 1922, p. 18.
- "1 dead, 2 shot, as bootleggers again fight on East Side," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
- "One killed, two shot in pistol battle," Brooklyn Standard Union, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
- "One man killed, two wounded, in gang war," New York Call, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 4.
- "Mystery in rum street battle near solution," New York Tribune, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
- "East Side bad man killed as shots fly," New York Herald, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
- "Gang kills gunman; 2 bystanders hit," New York Times, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 20.
- "Valente's arrest balked by murder," New York Evening World, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 3.
- "New Haven girl wounded in New York bootleggers' feud," Bridgeport CT Telegram, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 1.
- "Bootleggers at war," Philadelphia Inquirer (Associated Press), Aug. 12, 1922, p. 2.
- Chandler, David Leon, Brothers in Blood: The Rise of the Criminal Brotherhoods, New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1975.
- Gentile, Nick, with Felice Chilanti, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Crescenzi Allendorf, 1993.