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On This Day in History, February 21: Gangland’s Law of Silence Broken

We still occasionally hear of “gangland-style” killings, but the year 1931 was a time when gangland murders were not so few and far between. For instance the following item appeared on the front page of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Feb. 21, 1931:

Witness Slain For Aiding State In Cop’s Murder

Bullet-riddled Body of Franzone, Who Turned on Former Pals in Detective’s Death, Found in Bronx Road —
Two Others Die in Gang Shootings

New York’s underworld struck back today, with the weapons that gangsters know, at one of their own number who had violated the first law of the gangster’s code — the law of silence.

John Franzone, 32, of 66 E. 105th St., Manhattan, had testified for the prosecution in the trial of Frank Corelli for the murder of Detective Thomas E. Hill of the Highbridge station, the Bronx. Hill was shot in a battle with five bandits on the Macomb’s Dam Bridge on the night of July 8 last. Franzone was one of those rounded up later by police. Corelli was charged with the killing and found guilty.

At 7 a.m. today Franzone’s body, riddled with bullets, was found on a deserted unpaved stretch of road at Laconia Ave. and 229th St., the Bronx. He had been dead for six hours.

The body was discovered in a heap of rubbish and abandoned automobiles by James Garrone of 749 E. 329th St. Nearby police found five empty cartridge shells. Franzone had been shot through the right eye and several times in the body. Apparently the shooting was done while he was being ‘taken for a ride,’ and the body was then dumped from the automobile.

Before that, last night and early today, two men were killed and four wounded in a flareup of gangster warfare in the city.

The dead are Albert Wagner, brother of Abe Wagner, who himself, police say, escaped a fusillade of slugs early yesterday at 66 Suffolk St., Manhattan, and John (Aces) Mazza, 20, of 4518 8th Ave., Brooklyn.

Went After Foes

Mazza was shot outside Milfrank’s Cafeteria, 15 1st Ave., Manhattan, shortly before midnight. He apparently had known the gang was after him, and decided to go in search of his rivals first. He walked into the cafeteria, looked around for them and, failing to find them, walked out. As he stepped out, a fusillade of shots met him. Mazza fired back four times before he dropped, mortally wounded through the back. He died almost at once.

Two bystanders were wounded. They were: Joseph Koski, 20, of 2154 45th St., Astoria, an ironworker, who is in serious condition, and Peter Ruffello, 21, a grocer’s clerk, of 107 E. 2nd St., Manhattan. Koski was taken to Bellevue Hospital with a bullet in his chest, Ruffello had slight wounds on his neck and left hand.

Battle in Hotel

Albert Wagner was killed in the Hatfield Hotel, 103 E. 29th St., Manhattan. Police of the E. 35th St. station found his body on the seventh floor. Detective Barney Ruditsky had questioned him yesterday about the attempt to shoot his brother in Suffolk St. earlier, but received no aid.

Today at 4:30 a.m. Ruditsky was summoned to Bellevue, where he found Harry Brown, 26, of 10 Ocean Parkway, who had been shot five times. Brown had been wounded in the Hatfield Hotel but refused to talk to any one but Ruditsky. To him he would not say much either. If he recovers, he said, he might tell about the shooting; if not, the story will die with him. Hospital authorities said he was in serious condition. The other man wounded at the hotel was Abe Wagner.

February 21, 2012 - 9:56am


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