|French Market, New Orleans|
Two leaders of a Sicilian underworld faction were murdered on the morning of July 22, 1869, outside New Orleans' French Market.
Joseph Banano and Pietro Allucho, top men in a coalition of gangsters who emigrated from the Sicilian provinces of Messina and Trapani, died almost instantly from shotgun and pistol wounds. They had been involved for some time in a bloody feud with the Palermo-based Agnello Mafia organization. They recently returned to New Orleans after hiding out with friends in Galveston, Texas. Efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict were abandoned following the assassination of Mafia boss Raffaele Agnello in April 1869 and the succession of Joseph Agnello to his brother's leadership post.
|New Orleans Times|
The attention of police Officer Beasley, stationed nearby at the Levee, was attracted by the first shotgun blast that felled Allucho. From a distance, Beasley saw Joseph Banano attempt to help his collapsing friend Allucho and saw Salvatore Rosa, standing beside a "spring wagon," fire a second shell from his gun into Banano's side. As Beasley rushed to the scene, Rosa dropped his shotgun into the wagon, drew a pistol and fired again into Banano. After that, he tossed the pistol into the wagon, and another man drove the wagon quickly away.
Rosa saw Beasley approaching and attempted to escape, but the officer grabbed him after a brief chase.
Six slugs were found to have penetrated Allucho's side and chest and to have caused extensive damage to his lungs. Banano's right ribs were shattered by five slugs. A pistol in his pocket was broken into pieces by the projectiles, and one of the pieces was driven two inches into his body. A pistol shot wound was found on the other side of his body.
City newspapers differed in their accounts of what immediately preceded the attack and did not reveal their sources of information. (Judging from their slants, the competing stories appear to have come from sources close to the competing underworld factions.)
The New Orleans Times portrayed the incident as an ambush. It said Rosa hid himself in the back of the spring wagon until Banano and Allucho, "quietly engaged in conversation," were close by. Rosa then "simply shot one man after the other down as they stood in their tracks," the newspaper reported. The Times also linked the incident to shots fired an hour and a half earlier. At that time, Joseph Agnello was stopped by police. Agnello insisted that he had not done any shooting but was shot at by unknown men.
The New Orleans Daily Picayune suggested a self-defense motive for Rosa. It said Rosa was walking between St. Philip Street and Ursulines Street when he was threatened by a group of men at Ursulines. He reportedly ducked into a nearby building and armed himself. When he emerged, he fired into the threatening crowd.
Rosa was well known to police as a dangerous gunman. He was arrested two years earlier and charged with the murder of Erastus Wells at the Poydras Market. He was acquitted in that case. More recently he was charged in the apparently unintended killing of grocer David Clark, struck by gunfire during an eruption of the Sicilian underworld feud at the end of March, 1869, and also with attempting to kill a witness against him in the Clark homicide case.
As Rosa was locked up, there was speculation that he would use a self-defense argument to escape conviction. But he would never face trial. While incarcerated, Rosa developed a mysterious illness. He was said to be nearly dead when authorities agreed to release him in bail in August. He died August 21, 1869.
Two rumors were widely circulated after his death. The first was that he had been poisoned in his jail cell by Banano and Allucho followers. The other was that he had not died at all, but used phony reports of illness and death to escape from his underworld rivals and from the law.
|New Orleans Daily Picayune|
- Hunt, Thomas, and Martha Macheca Sheldon, Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia, Second Edition, 2010.
- "An attempt to kill," New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 7, 1869, p. 2.
- "Again arrested," New Orleans Daily Picayune, May 7, 1869, p. 12.
- "Another tragedy - Two Sicilians killed," New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 23, 1869, p. 2.
- "The two last assassinations," New Orleans Times, July 23, 1869, p. 1.
- "The Sicilian disturbances," New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 24, 1869, p. 2.
- "The homicides - a week of blood," New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 28, 1869, p. 2.
- "Death of Rosa," New Orleans Daily Picayune, Aug. 22, 1869, p. 9.
- "Salvador Rosa," New Orleans Death Records Index, Aug. 21, 1869, Ancestry.com.
- "Unfounded rumor," New Orleans Daily Picayune, Aug. 25, 1869, p. 2.
Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon.