Thick as Thieves
Last Minute Stickup, Long Term Sentence
“We’ll get Lugers to mow down the bulls with.”
It was a sinister whisper, this statement from the blond punk. It traveled only two feet there in the outer office of Elmira Reformatory. But the thick-lipped young man with the white face heard and understood.
Lugers are good, he thought. They hold nine bullets; a cop’s special only six. It’d feel swell to have a Luger in his hand when he got out.
His glance flicked over the rigidly solemn faces of the other uneasy members of his “graduating class” and returned to the cold-eyed blond youth at his side.
Detective John L. O’Brien, shown with his wife, stopped an Elmira Rat’s bullet and still got his man.
“How’ll we get ‘em?” His query slid between the bitter, thick lips that didn’t move. “Lugers cost dough.”
“I’ve got a Colt buried in my old man’s back yard.”
The explanation hissed out the corner of the blond youth’s mouth while his eyes stared straight ahead.
“Good. But we’ll need a mob.”
“Leave that to me.” The blond plotter’s stony face said plainly he’d given the subject much thought. “I’ll have a mob together by the time I meet you at the parole office next month.”
The Captain of the Guard approached from the far end of the room.
“You don’t have to whisper any more, Boys,” he assured them in a fatherly tone. “You’re free now and you’ll be out of here in a few minutes.”
The bitter lines vanished from the thick-lipped youth’s countenance in a smile of surprising guilelessness.
“We was just wondering how we’d find jobs,” he said.
“Your folks and the probation officer will help you,” said the Guard Captain.
A few minutes later the “reformed” boys were clambering into a station wagon. As they sped off to the railroad station to entrain for their homes throughout the State they looked back with mingled emotions at the receding gray walls of Elmira Reformatory in upstate New York.
In the minds of some were the parting words of the parole board and resolutions to live exemplary lives,
But in the minds of two seethed bitterness, hatred and contempt for Society. Better death than another stretch behind prison walls, they thought. And they’d figured it all out. No dumb cops would catch them ever again.
Their Lugers would see to that.
A strange new mob swept viciously through New York City a few weeks later. In swift, well-planned raids the gang stuck up and looted a dozen small stores, laundries and gasoline-stations and then went to work on large restaurants. They were arrogant, shrewd and apparently capture-proof.
At first only four youthful punks were in the mob and they had only one gun. Later, there were five bandits and five guns. But whether they had only one gun or five, the depredations of the gang were marked, invariably, by cool bravado and, on occasion, by unnecessary roughness if not wanton cruelty.
Detective James Sabatino — he’s now a Lieutenant — first called the attention of our office to the viciousness of these hoods early in 1929. They had been mocking the police since the previous Fall.
“So far,” he said, “we haven’t been able to get any line on them, but they seem to know Manhattan and Queens pretty well.”
Methodically, Sabatino detailed the characteristic actions at each stickup he was sure the mob had committed. Among the stickups had been a minor raid on a butcher shop in the Astoria section of Queens.
Finding only $4.30 in the butcher shop till, the young thugs stripped a gold signet ring from the finger of one customer, a gold watch from the wrist of another and then trussed up all the victims so viciously that the heavy twine cut through their skin, Sabatino said.
“They are a bad lot , and some day they’re going to get panicky and spill blood with those guns,” the detective concluded.
How could we prevent that when we hadn’t the slightest idea who the young hoods were or where they would strike next?
The predicted blood was spilled a week later.
It happened in the heart of the Jamaica section of Queens on Saturday, March 2.
Near one o’clock that morning five nattily attired youths entered a large Chinese restaurant on the second floor of a building diagonally opposite Town Hall. After eating, one of the quintet reclaimed his overcoat from the check-room and walked out without paying his bill. A minute later he was warming up the motor of a powerful Marmon sedan parked on the opposite side of the street.
“Better give those other four fellows a check,” Harold Akie, the manager, directed a waiter. An American-born university-educated Chinese, Akie was well acquainted with the subterfuges of chiselers.
A moment later he looked up from his account books on the counter beside the cash register and stared into the mammoth mouth of a .45 revolver.
“Keep your hands right where they are, Buddy,” came an acid-dripping voice.
Akie lifted his eyes to a hook-nosed face above the .45 and nodded his understanding. The other three youths were standing behind Hook-Nose, forming a screen so the 100 patrons in the restaurant could not see what was going on. Each held a gun closely, each pointed at Akie. They were the four friends of the youth warming up the car downstairs.
Two were tall and grim-faced, both had blond hair, one had thick lips. The third was a runt with wicked, glittering eyes.
“Okay,” said one thug.
Hook-Nose slid around the counter and tapped the no-sale key. As the cash register rang, the hum of voices in one corner of the restaurant rose in pitch. Then a woman’s voice rose loud and shrill, edged with hysteria. Instantly the four bandits dropped all pretense. They knew their guns had been seen. One blond youth scurried behind the counter.
Instantly the four bandits dropped all pretense. They knew their guns had been seen. One blond youth scurried behind the counter, dug his gun into Akie’s back. The runt and the thick-lipped thug whirled to face the patrons.
“Sit tight, everybody!” snapped the thick-lipped on. “Sit tight and keep your hands above the tables.”
Many of the patrons were to tremble later at remembering the terror that seized them at this moment. It wasn’t the gun, nor anything the bandit said or did that caused it. It was the expression of his face–it’s mask of cold and venomous hate.
It was worse even than the bullet that whined along the side of the room an instant later, a bullet from the runt’s gun. As a waiter peeked out the swinging kitchen-door, the little hood’s arm flashed out and his gun roared.
A woman screamed. The bullet crashed into the wall two inches above the waiter’s head. The head vanished as if by magic. Tension tightened in the restaurant. The bandits were the only unperturbed persons in the room.
The two behind the counter came out. Hook-Nose had cleaned $474 from the till. The other thug had found $700 and the manager’s own revolver in a cash-box on a desk. He held out the extra gun to the dark-haired bandit.
“Want this, Hen, to help cover us?” he asked.
He took the revolver and stepped to one side, covering Akie and the patrons with two guns.
One of the thugs returned from the checkroom carrying an overcoat and a hat which he passed to Hen. When Hen had slipped them on, his confederates returned to the checkroom.
Abruptly the faint cry of “Holdup! Holdup! Police!” came from the street below. Unknown to the bandits, the proprietor, Tony Kow, had slithered down a rear stairway, through a long dark alley and around a corner to give the alarm.
An eleventh-hour idea for a stickup in this upstairs new York restaurant brought first blood for the Elmira Rats.
In panic the three bandits struggled to find their hats and coats. They snatched at anything and rushed for the door. Plunging down the stairs they crashed into Patrolman John L. O’Brien who had just begun to ascend.
Until a few days before, O’Brien had been a detective detailed to the Manhattan pickpocket squad. The city’s fashion-plate Police Commissioner had broken him and sent him back to pounding the streets. As a result O’Brien was unaccustomed to a harness-bull’s apparel and still was struggling to get out his revolver when the rush of the bandits swept him off his feet.
Springing up, O’Brien blazed away as the bandits jumped into their powerful care. Flame and thunder crashed back at him from the machine’s black interior.
Hen, rushing down the restaurant stairway, did not lose a stride. One of the two guns in his hands jerked. The slug plowed into O’Brien’s back, just above the heart. Once again O’Brien was knocked to the floor.
Hen entered a different street than he had left. People by scores of persons a few moments before, the side-walks now were deserted except for other policemen racing down the street, their service revolvers crackling.
Their bullets were boring into the back of the car, zinging through its rear window and windshield, while answering blasts and tongues of flame stabbed from its dark recesses.
Suddenly the car jerked ahead and roared away.
The forgotten bandit fled west on Jamaica Avenue, twisted around the nearest corner and dodged into the very alley through which the restaurant proprietor had hurried to give the alarm.
The fleeing hood felt a sense of safety in the alley’s darkness. A thrill of elation followed a few steps farther when he saw a bright light off to one side. He knew now exactly what he’d do. He was smart, he was. He pocketed his guns.
Behind him indomitable Officer O’Brien had pulled himself painfully to his feet and was lurching in pursuit through a fog of dizziness. The thug never knew it until he’d sauntered nonchalantly half-way through a restaurant on the street floor, two doors from the place he’d stuck up.
It was at this moment that O’Brien, who’d followed him through the restaurant’s rear door, jabbed his service revolver into the rat’s back.
“Get ‘em up, you punk!”
The bandit’s arms shot high.
Swaying on his feet, his own blood forming a crimson pool on the white tiled floor, O’Brien fished two guns from the thugs pockets and snapped handcuffs on him. It was a brilliantly illuminated restaurant but to O’Brien it was getting very dark. He didn’t care. His prisoner couldn’t get away; his work was done.
Other officers burst through the front door, caught O’Brien as he fell and took charge of the prisoner. By the time he reached the hospital, O’Brien’s name was being restored to the roles of Manhattan’s famed detective pick-pocket squad.
The getaway car, riddled with bullets, was found abandoned an our later at 148th Street and Hillside Avenue, Jamaica, about a mile from the scene of the crime, its steering mechanism ruined.
Swerving in a desperate attempt to run down Patrolman Edward Coffey a few blocks from the stickup, the driver had struck the curbing a terrific blow. Coffey was clipped by a fender and was hurled spinning to the sidewalk. He managed to get to his knees and send several shots after the car as it careened around a corner at historic King Park and disappeared.
Detectives were astonished when they did not find a speck of blood in the car, and disappointed, too, when they discovered that the bandits coolly had stopped to wipe off all fingerprints before abandoning the machine.
As the officers had expected, the auto proved to have been stolen the previous afternoon on East 81st Street in Manhattan.
Taken to Jamaica Police Headquaters, the captive bandit was identified quicly as Henry Langert, 20, of No. 167 Third Avenue, Astoria, Long Island, a recent graduate of Elmira Reformatory.
Did that mean we were on the way to a quick solution of the vicious holdups of the past Winter? Not by a jubful!
Langert’s finger-prints revealed he’d been convicted previously of attempted robbery. But his prints failed to reveal his character. And as it unfolded during the quizzing period, the next day, Sunday, Captain Henry Flattery and Detectives John J. Magner and John Keudell, who is now a police captain, realized they were dealing with a remarkable individual.
To the amazement of the officers, the youth was not sullen or defiant. He was posed, well-mannered and not without a certain degree of calm charm which was almost incongruous for one of his years and known history.
Solicitously he inquired about O’Brien and expressed his regret when informed the officer was hovering between life and death.
“I only meant to wing him,” he said. Then, with a sigh, “That’s what comes from not casing the joint. We took it on the blind.”
Questioned concerning the identity of the other bandits, Langert looked at the detectives for a moment with an amused smile. Then, with a resigned air, he replied:
“I guess there’s no reason why I shouldn’t tell you. Now that you’ve got me you must know who one of them is and the descriptions you’ve got will finger the others.
Easy for the police? That’s what you think!
“The tall blond fellow?” Langert repeated. “That’s Johnny Cunningham. Hook-Nose? He’s Abe Weinstein. The little fellow is Jimmy O’Brien. The driver was Jimmy Smith.
There was a ring of truth in what Langert said. The officers knew that Cunningham, a tall, blond youth, had been suspected of complicity in the attempted robbery for which Langert had been sent away. In fact he’d been suspected often of various crimes but no rap ever had stuck to him.
Still who were the others?
“They’re friends of Johnny’s,” Langert said. “I never met them until I got out of Elmira.”
The prisoner professed not to know where any of his confederates lived. He thought they lived some place in Brooklyn. Cunningham, he said, always got in touch with him when they had a job planned.
“Like tonight,” Langert volunteered. “I met them down in Greenwich Village. They’d already swiped the car.”
“You didn’t have anything to do with the stickup of Washington Market earlier in the evening, did you?” Captain Flattery suggested.
“Oh, yes, we did,” Langert admitted frankly. “We knocked that place off first. We were only cruising when we came out here. We stopped in the Chinese restaurant just to get something to eat. We stuck it up on the supr of the moment.
“Who tied up the clerks in Washington Market?” Captain Flattery asked. “Cunningham?”
Langert shook his head. “No. Abe Weinstein. Cunningham stood guard. I tapped the till.”
Detective Magner produced a dark gray overcoat from a locker and handed it to Captain Flattery. During their stamped from the Chines restaurant one of the bandits had taken a patron’s coat and left his own. The pockets had yielded a ball of heavy twine and a flashlight.
“Ever see this coat before? The Captain inquired casually.
Langert peered at it closely. “It looks like Abe’s,” he said. “Did you catch him, too?”
There was something convincing in Langert’s frank answers and direct gaze, although it seemed od that he didn’t know where his stickup pals lived. Still, the officers knew, hoods of all types are inclined to shift from one place to another and often meet their friends only in pool-rooms, gin mills and other hangouts.
“If we take you to the rogues’ gallery tomorrow, will you pick out their pictures if they should be there under other names?” Flattery queried.
“Why not?” His eyes went to the overcoat. “You’ll get them anyway, if they’re not already dead or in the cooler.”
Nothing in the boy’s actions or remarks aroused any suspicion when he failed to pick out the photos of his pals the following day. For that matter, Akie, the manager of the restaurant, was uable to spot the likeness of any of the other plug-uglies, either.
One photo, they agreed, “looks like Abe Weinstein!”
It was a rogues’ gallery shot of a 22-year-old punk by the name of Joseph Scarola, of No. 324 East 113th Street, Manhattan, who’d spent most of his teen-age life behind bars.
“I’m afraid I can’t pick out any of the bandits from these photos,” Akie said. “I’ll have to see them in person. These photos don’t seem to be very flattering.”
Langert agreed with Akie’s observation and, in addition, picked out photographs of about 10 criminals who, in one way or another, “resembled” his pals.
Langert had finished reading and signing each page of his voluntary confession in the Queens District Attorney’s office when two detectives returned from a search of Langert’s room.
The officers quietly reported that they’d found no loot or other corroborating evidence in Langert’s home and that members of his family had expressed surprise and puzzlement when questioned concerning Johnny Cunningham.
“Non of Langert’s relatives have seen Cunningham in two years,” the detectives said.
Confronted with this, Langert smiled.
“I didn’t want my folks to know. They might have gotten suspicious. Cunningham always hung around a pool-room near the house and waited for me to show up.”
The usual alarm had been sent out for Cunningham’s apprehension. When it failed to produce results a special squad of detectives was assigned to trace him and another squad was detailed to check the activities of every criminal whose photo had caught the attention of Akie and Langert.
It was the second squad which turned up the first clew. Checking on one of the alleged criminals, Joseph Scarola–whose picture had looked like Abe Weinstein—detectivces learned that he’d been “graduated” from Elmira Reformatory only three days before Langert’s mob launched its reign of terror and that on the day of his “graduation” he was wearing an overcoat of the same make, color and size as the overcoat left by one of the bandits in the restaurant.
“Did you make any inquiries for Scarola at his parent’s home on East 113th Street in Manhattan? I asked the squad leader.
“No, I didn’t want to tip our hand.”
If a member of the gang, Scarola, we knew it would be hiding in the home of some relative or friend, waiting to see if Langert had squealed. One warning—and he would be gone.
“Our best bet,” I suggested, “will be to wait and nab Scarola when he reports to his porobation officer there days from now.”
“Just make a quiet inquiry in the neighborhood of his home and see if he’s still living with his parents,” Captain Flattery told two detective. “If he’s not, get the best line you can on his relatives and friends without arousing his suspicions. The parole board and the officers in the local precinct should have plenty of information on him. “
The second development that day came in a strange form.
An agitated middle-aged man grabbed a policeman’s arm on the street.
“Arrest that boy, Officer,” he pleaded, pointing to a tall blond youth walking along the street. “I’m sure he’s one of the bandits who held me up in my butcher shop over in Astoria last month.”
The butcher had been visiting a business acquaintance several miles from the scene of the holdup when he say the youth pass on the street.
Taken to a near-by police station, the young man was placed in a line-up for inspection by the butcher’s two customers, who’d lost a watch and a plain gold signet ring during the hold-up.
Neither was able to identify the boy.
Hearing of the arrest, Captain Flattery ordered that the prisoner be brought forthwith to the District Attorney’s office.
“Well, well, Luke!” said Flattery.
The Captain smiled broadly when the boy was escorted in by two detectives. ” I thought you were up in Elmira.”
Luke glared venomously at the officer.
“I got out two months ago! “ he snapped. “Why the Hell don’t you flatfeet leave us guys on parole alone?”
Captain Flattery gave an almost imperceptible signal. The boy was led out of the room by two detectives.
“That fellow’s a tough baby,” said Captain Flattery. “His name’s Bonnell. He lives out in Queens Village, 93-34 Vandeveer Street. We had him in three times before he was eighteen, larceny once and burglary twice. He was sent to the House of Refuge on the petty larceny charge but they couldn’t handle him there so he was transferred to Elmira. He’s about twenty now and apparently tougher than when he was sent away.”
A phone call to the Parole Board brought the electrifying reply:
“Luke Bonnell and Henry Langert were paroled on the same day.”
“It could be a coincidence,” he said. “there are thousands of tall, blond boys in and out of prison. And there are a lot fitting that description who are on parole. I know this boy’s folks. I’ve always hoped he’d some day show the stuff they’re made of.”
Flattery stood up.
“Suppose we hold off the roundup of witnesses until I come back?” he proposed. “I’ve a little investigating to do myself.”
We nodded silently. Flattery went out. An hour later he was back, his face an expressionless mask. With an air of preoccupation he took off his overcoat and hat, settled himself in a chair and then answered our inquiring glances.
“Luke Bonnell left his parent’s home six weeks ago,” Flattery told us. “I brought back some snapshots his parents found in his room. They were taken on a beach before Luke was jailed. I think most of Luke’s old friends are in the pictures. They may come in handy later.”
The phone buzzer sounded. It was a call for Flattery. When he turned to us again his face was slightly ashen.
“It was the hospital,” he said tonelessly. “They want some of the officers to stand by for emergency blood transfusions. O’Brien’s near death. “
Heavily he got to his feet and went into an ante-room where a dozen detectives were lolling. Through the closed door there came the indistinct sound of his voice. Abruptly there was a deep rumble of male voices and a sudden surging shuffle of many heavy feet. Flattery’s voice rose in a sharp, angry bark. A murmuring silence ensued. Then a door opened and closed.
A moment later, Flattery rejoined us, his face flushed.
“The darn fools all started off at once,” he growled. “In another second there wouldn’t have been one of them left here.”
He was glaring but there was a slight mist in his eyes, too.
The arrival of Harold Akie was announced. Bonnell was lined up with several detectives and clerks. Akie engered the room and looked them over. For an enless minute we held our breaths. Then Akie said:
“That man looks like the bandit who stole our cash box and our revolver. Yes, I’m pretty sure he’s one of the bandits.”
Akie was pointing directly at Luke Bonnell!
A minute later Langert was brought in. Bonnell was sitting in a chair in the corner. We were prepared to see the pair pretend they didn’t know each other, but not for what actually occurred.
A look of faint surprise crossed Langert’s face as he saw Bonnell. “Hello,” he said pleasantly. He said it as though he was greeting a person he knew only slightly.
Bonnell looked up.
“H’yah?” he grunted indifferently. Then, with a snarl, “Are they trying to pin something on you, too?”
“Come on, you punks!” a detective bellowed. “That act won’t go.”
Bonnell looked up with insolent contempt.
“Come clean, Langert,” Captain Flattery cut in. “Wasn’t this fellow with you when you shot that cop?”
“Why, no,” he said incredulously, “I ever told you any such thing.”
“You were in Elmira together?”
“For eighteen months.”
Captain Flattery took a deep breath. “Eighteen months,” he repeated. “And you two got pretty chummy there, didn’t you?”
Langert’s puzzled expression relaxed in a smile.
“No, you don’t understand,” he said pleasantly. “No one gets chummy at Elmira. They have the silence system there!”
Langert went to explain that there were 1,200 youths int eh reformatory, divided up into small groups which were kept intact for all purposes including military drill, instruction, work and recreation.
“We were allowed to talk only at meal times, in the mess hall, and then only to those in our own group,” Langert concluded. “So you see I couldn’t get to know Bonnell. He wasn’t in my group. I know him only by sight.”
For an hour the pair withstood relentless grilling in different rooms without materially changing their stories. Both denied having seen each other since the day they were paroled. Both recognized Scarola’s photo as that of an inmate at the reformatory but denied knowing him.
Of a sudden Flattery sprang to his feet.
“I forgot something!”
Flinging open the door, he inquired if Akie were still around, and when informed that he was, directed that he be brought in.
Flattery pulled Luke Bonnell’s snapshots from his pocket and handed them to Akie.
“Look these over and see if you recognize anyone in those pictures,” Flattery said.
For ten minutes Akie studied the pictures. Finally he picked up one showing half a dozen boys in bathing suits. Langert was in the center of the group. Pointing to one of three smaller boys of similar facial appearance on the end of the line, Akie said:
“He looks most like the little bandit.”
When Akie had departed with our thanks, Captain Flattery produced a sheet of paper bearing the names or nicknames of most of the youngsters in the pictures and addresses of several of them.
District Attorney Charles P. Sullivan (top), co-author of this story, forewsay a killing unless the police acted quickly. Detective James Sabatino (bottom): He was sure a small hold-up held great significance. A hoodlums glance at the building above caused a police raid that uncovered a gang’s lair.
“Ah! We’ve got that boy’s name and address.” Flattery beamed. “Patrick Kelly. He lives at 2423 Second Avenue, Harlem.”
“Any information on him?”
“Not much. He’s about eighteen now, according to Bonnell’s folks. His address was in an old note-book of Lukes. He used to live out in Queens Village, near Bonnell, but he moved to Manhattan before Luke was sent to Elmira.”
Captain Flattery had more interesting information the next morning – Patrick Kelly’s record. It showed the boyd served a term in the Catholic Protectory, for juvenile delinquency.
He also had a report from the detectives tracing Scarola. It showed conclusively that Scaroloa was on the lam. And it made it look as if our plan to trap him at the parole board might fail.
Captain Flattery went to Harlem with Detective Keudell. All that day and night they drifted in and out of Kelly’s known haunts – cellar clubs, pool-halls, dancing academies. But they caught no glimpse of Kelly.
Shortly after midnight they were walking along East 114th Street, planning a raid on Kelly’s tenement home, hoping to catch him asleep, when they suddenly stopped dead in their tracks and then glided noiselessly into the shadows.
Kelly was standing half-way down the block, furtively eyeing a tenement across the street!
Slowly he began to approach where the officers were hiding, keeping his eyes fixed on the tenement.
“I’ll bet they have a hideout in that building,” Keudell whispered tensely.
Captain Flattery nodded.
As Kelly came abreast, the officers swooped. Snarlying like a wildcat, the boy bit, kicked and cursed but was helpless in the powerful grip of the detectives.
“Bad little boy!”Captain Flattery taunted. “Be nice. Papa spank.”
Captain Flattery was not being facetious. He had a plan in mind. Kelly unwittingly snatched at it.
“Damn lucky for you, you got the drop on me!” he flared back. “I was ready to go out fighting!”
Kelly glowered up at his captors as though trying to impress them with his ferocity.
“Nice little boy,” soothed Flattery.
Speechless at this affront to his moronic conception of dignity, Kelly was led in a daze to the tenement he’d been eying, each officer firmly holding one of his arms.
IN a few minutes the detectives found wht they were seeking. It was a three-room flat and it bore unmistakable evidence of having been vacated hurriedly —a half empty whisky bottle, a box of ammunition and all the personal effects of Bonnell!
A search of Kelly’s pockets yielded a Luger automatic with nine steel-jacketed shells. The little punk’s chest swelled with pride.
“You see I meant it!” he cried with resurging importance. “I don’t know how you got the drop on me but it’s lucky foryou, you were quick. I’d a let you have it! You’d a never taken me alive.”
Captain Flattery threw back his head and laughed uproariously, Kelly’s eyes filled with frustrated angry tears.
“You poor little boy,” laughed Captain Flattery. “You try so hard to show you’re not afraid.”
“Afraid!” Kelly’s eyes popped in horror as the word burst from his lips.
“Sure,” badgered Flattery. “We all know it. Bonnell told us you got so frightened in that restaurant stickup that your gun exploded in your hand.”
“Bonnell’s a liar!” Kelly shrilled in explosive rage. “And he’s a lousy rat! He held out seven hundred dollars.”
Flattery said even that in a taunting voice.
“You’re damn right! He said we only got for hundred dollars. The newspapers said it was twelve hundred dollars. I’d like to meet that filthy double-crosser!”
“We got him in the klink,” Flattery said as bait. “But I’m afraid you wouldn’t dare talk like that in front of him.”
“The Hell I wouldn’t!”
Kelly’s eyes gleamed at the prospect. Needled by the detectives, he railed at the forced delay as they waited for the janitress of the building to return with other officers to guard the hideout and dust every inch of it for prints.
Apparently at no time had the thought occurred to him that he might get the electric chair if Officer O’Brien died. And the two detectives did not remind him of it. They had only one purpose at this moment–that Kelly repeat his accusations in Bonnell’s presence. If he did, it would be corroborating evidence, admissible in court, and it would enmesh all three–Langert, Kelly and Bonnell–in one gang.
But would he do it?
Brought face to face with Bonnell a little later, he hesitated.
Captain Flattery taunted:
“Here’s Bonnell, my little man. You’re not afraid of him, are you?”
Officers had to restrain Kelly forcibly. His rage was white and his language was profane. When his tirade was finished we knew all we needed to know.
We knew by then that Scarola was a member of the mob. And we knew that a dope-peddler graduate of Elmira Reformatory by the name of Armand Castellano, a 20-year-old hoodlum of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, living at No. 60 King Street, was also a member.
And we proved this was true when we found finger-prints of Castellano, Scarola and Kelly in the gang’s Harlem headquarters where Bonnell had gone to live after quitting his Queens home.
Discovery of loot clinched the case. Cunningham was exonerated completely.
Whe the trap for Scarola was sprung at the Parole Board, it caught Castellano, the driver of the getaway car, instead of the hooked-nose fugitive.
Castellano confessed his part in the stickups to Detectives Magner and Keudell who captured him. He was the last to join the gang, he said, attributing his tardiness to a delayed graduation from Elmira Reformatory.
It required tow more weeks to trace and bag the elusive Scarola and then he was caught by Detectives Keudell and Magner only at the very moment he was fleeing from his brother-in-law’s home in Lower Manhattan, a loaded Luger in his pocket.
The brother-in-law’s apartment had been searched twice previously without any trace being found of Scarola. He explained this by stating he’d been entering and leaving the apartment for two weeks via neighboring roofs over which he’d scramble under the cloak of night, aided by handy fire escapes.
Officer O’Brien recovered in time to testify at the trial of the quintent. All fiver were prosecuted simultaneously by Assistant District Attorney Willaiam H. Robinson. On the second day of the trial, Aprill 11, 1929, Langert and Kelly entered pleas of guilty. Then on the thrird day the unfathomable Langert took the witness stand in behalf of the remaining trio and tried to shift all the blame to his own shoulders. His magnanimous gesture was futile, however. Castellano, Bonnell and Scarola were found guilty as charged.
Bonnell and Kelly were sentenced to 25 to 30 years each. Langert and Scarola drew 35 years each. Langert and Scarola drew 35 years each and Castellano was awarded a straight 40-year term. Castellano’s attorney, Caesar B.F. Barra, subsequently won a cut in Castellano’s sentence, making it seven years six months to fifteen years. The lawyer’s contention that Castellano’s previous offense for narcotics had been a misdemeanor in the state and not a felony was upheld on appeal.
The good streak which Captain Flattery had looked for in Bonnell broke out finally in a spectacular fashion a few months after the youth was sentenced on April 18, 1920. During the bloody riot at auburn prison that year, which took 600 national Guardsmen, scores of policemen and hundreds of volunteers six hours to quell, Bonnell sided at last with the forces of law and order and was wounded critically by other long-term convicts.
The name Joseph Cunningham is fictitious to avoid embarrassing an innocent person.
Patrick Kelly helped to identify these guns for Captain Herbert Graham, shown at left, and Assistant District Attorney Leo J. Heffernan, right.