Sunday, February 13, 2005

Detroit's Role in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Although the infamous 1929 massacre didn't occur in Detroit (it happened in Chicago), most historians and researchers still believe that a small group of Detroiters were responsible for the seven killings that occurred that day.

Several websites, as well as the book, "The Detroit Almanac", say that Detroit's Purple Gang - the mob organization that ruled the D's streets from 1925 to 1930 - was involved in a highly secretive plan staged by mob lord Al Capone, who wanted fellow mobster George "Bugs" Moran "out of the picture".

According to legend, the scenario was as follows:
At Capone's request, a member of Detroit's Purple Gang contacted Bugs Moran and arranged to deliver some liquor to Moran. The liquor - which was the property of one of Moran's establishments, but had been stolen in route to its destination - was to be delivered to him at a garage located at 2122 North Clark Street in Chicago. Instead of delivering the hooch on that fateful Valentine's Day, however, the contracted members of the Purple Gang illegally acquired a paddy wagon and some police uniforms, and went inside the establishment pretending to be police on a raid. Upon entering the small garage on Clark Street in their officer's garb, the Purple Gang members ordered Bugs' men to face the wall; but, instead of performing a frisk of the alleged wrongdoers, they pulled out machine guns and fired round after round of shots. Just minutes later, all seven men were dead.

Ironically, Capone and the hit members of the Purple Gang later discovered that their target of the event, Bugs Moran, had not been inside the garage. Many speculate that Bugs saw the paddy wagon outside of the dropoff location and immediately headed in the other direction. Capone, who was vacationing in Florida at the time of the massacre, claimed he had no involvement in it. Bugs Moran later lost much of his power within his own gang, the Northsiders, and eventually moved to Ohio. He was later arrested for bank robbery, and died in prison in 1957.

Capone died in 1947 of pneumonia and the aftermath of a stroke, both of which were brought on by syphilis, a disease that took over his body and mind during a seven-year sentence in prison.

Detroit's Purples were suspected as the hitmen in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, but it was never proven. The Purples fizzled out after its leaders were imprisoned for the Collingwood Massacre, which occurred in Detroit in 1931. The shootout at Collingwood Avenue pitted the Purples against their hometown rivals, the Little Navy Gang.