|Camden Morning Post|
Local Mafia boss John "Big Nose" Avena and associate Martin Feldstein were standing in front of 718 Washington Avenue in Philadelphia, a few paces from the intersection with East Passyunk Avenue, at about 2:20 in the afternoon, August 17, 1936. A small sedan approached on Washington. It slowed as it reached them. A gunman inside the vehicle pointed the muzzle of a submachine gun out a window and sprayed the two men with bullets.
Avena appeared to be the gunman's target. He fell with numerous wounds to his chest. Feldstein, a minor numbers racketeer, merely picked a bad moment to stand on the sidewalk with the boss. He was struck by slugs in his arm and midsection.
The sedan turned onto Passyunk and disappeared into the city traffic. Police later found the vehicle abandoned at 7th Street and Watkins, about a half mile from the scene of the shooting. Witnesses saw several men climb out of the car, one seemed to carry a piece of long luggage, and move off in different directions.
Patrol officers and detectives in the area heard the gunshots and rushed to the corner of Washington and Passyunk. It was the southernmost intersection of a one-fifth mile of diagonal-running Passyunk that had been nicknamed "the Bloody Angle" because of the number of murders committed there.
Avena and Feldstein were rushed to Pennsylvania Hospital. Avena was pronounced dead a few minutes later. Feldstein was rushed into emergency surgery. Surgeons extracted several slugs from his body, but the damage was extensive. Feldstein died that night.
Following the testimony of witnesses at an inquest, two men were named as suspects in the killing: John Fosco, alias John Martin, and Peter Gallo, alias Peter Wallace. John Amato, chauffeur for gang leader Pius Lanzetti, was later named an accessory to the murder.
Police investigators decided that the murder of Avena was the result of a feud between the Avena Mafia and a gang run by the Lanzetti brothers. The groups had been quarreling over Avena's recent intrusions into Lanzetti numbers rackets.
That Avena was deposed as Mafia leader through a drive-by shooting along the Bloody Angle was widely viewed as appropriate. He had first come to the attention of the public as a suspect in a similar shooting at the northern end of the angle about a decade earlier.
- John Avena Certificate of Death, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Vital Records, file no. 82485, registered no. 17257, Aug. 17, 1936.
- "Racketeer, aide killed in Phila. numbers war," Camden NJ Morning Post, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 1.
- "Suspect gives up in gang slaying; held as accessory," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 21, 1937, p. 2.
- "Two men slain by rivals in numbers war," Wilkes-Barre PA Evening News, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 9.
- McCullough, John M., "2 slain by gang in flareup of numbers war," Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 1.