Saint Valentine's Day massacre

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2122 N. Clark Street, the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Now a parking lot.

The Saint Valentine's Day massacre was a mass murder that took place in Chicago, Illinois, United States, on the morning of 14 February 1929.[a] It was the most infamous event in the history of crime in the United States.

Background[change | change source]

Al Capone was the most powerful bootlegger in Chicago. By 1929 he had eliminated several of his rival crime bosses.[2] The last one on his "list" was Bugs Moran. Capone was trying to appear as if he was retired to Florida.[3] So Capone didn't want to be seen as starting another gang war.[3] Instead, Capone gave the order to one of his associates, Jack McGurn, to eliminate Bugs Moran.[2]

Massacre[change | change source]

On the morning of 14 February, McGurn lured Moran and his men to a warehouse on Clark street. The bait was a stolen truckload of whisky they could buy cheap.[4] Seven of Moran's men were there to inspect the load. A police car pulled up outside the building and several of Capone's men dressed in Chicago police uniforms went in and pretended to arrest Moran's men.[4] When they were lined up against a wall the killers pulled out Thompson submachine guns and opened fire. Six of the seven men were killed.[5] Moran himself was just arriving when he saw the police car and escaped.[4]

At this time murder was not a federal offense.[6] Most of the killers McGurn hired were from out of town. Police departments from different cities rarely could work together to solve crimes at that time. So the killers knew if they simply left Chicago after the massacre nobody could touch them.[6]

Results[change | change source]

Newspapers ran stories of the gangster shootings and prohibition lawlessness in Chicago.[7] These were complete with detailed photographs of the murders. At first many thought the Chicago police had committed the massacre.[b] But most people in Chicago thought Al Capone was behind the murders.[7] Capone had an alibi. He was at his winter home in Palm Beach, Florida when the murders took place. The suspicions finally resulted in the arrests of Vincenzio Damora and John Scalise. These were two of Capone's known henchmen. Scalise was charged with the murders after Damora came up with an alibi. But Capone murdered Scalise himself before he could stand trial.[7] Public opinion also put pressure on the FBI to arrest Capone with any charge they could. In 1931 they finally charged him with tax evasion and sent him to prison.[9] Capone was sent to Alcatraz for eleven years. When he was finally released he was too sick to continue his crime career. He died in 1947.[9] Prohibition was repealed in 1933 which almost stopped bootlegging.[7]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Saint Valentine's Day is so named for Saint Valentine, the name given to at least three martyred saints who lived in Ancient Rome. All three died on 14 February and all three died in the 3rd century. Which saint the day is named after is not certain.[1]
  2. During the prohibition era in Chicago, corruption among the police and politicians was widespread. It left the city with a bad reputation for decades.[8]

References[change | change source]

  1. Christine Petrell Kallevig, Holiday Folding Stories (Broadview Heights, OH: Storytime Ink International, 1992), p. 54
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mike Mayo, American Murder: Criminals, Crimes and the Media (Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press, 2008), p. 337
  3. 3.0 3.1 Laurence Bergreen, Capone: The Man and the Era (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 305
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Conspiracy Encyclopedia, ed. Thom Burnett (London: Collins & Brown, 2006), p. 45
  5. Rowland L. Young, 'CHICAGO: The City by the Lake', American Bar Association Journal, Vol. 63, No. 5 (May, 1977), p. 662
  6. 6.0 6.1 Laurence Bergreen, Capone: The Man and the Era (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 306
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Thomas Streissguth, The Roaring Twenties (New York: Facts On File, 2007), p. 299
  8. Robert Cross (2014). "Prohibition begins". Chicago Tribune Company, LLC. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  9. 9.0 9.1 The FBI: a centennial history, 1908-2008 (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2008), p. 27